Ike boys top Ardmore, join girls at State
EDMOND - There was never a look of panic on the faces of the Eisenhower boys. Instead, it was a look of determination that was shown as the Eagles exited the locker room of the area tournament consolation championship trailing 36-24.
A deficit counted at only a dozen didn't seem out of reach but given the Eagles' struggles in the first half, it seemed like a mountain instead of a molehill.
But with their season on the line, Ike knew what was at stake and in turn played like the Eagles team that had taken top-ranked Carl Albert down to the wire the night before.
The strong second half surge thanks to a surplus of steals propelled No. 7 Eisenhower to a 56-51 victory over No. 12 Ardmore on Saturday night to punch its ticket to State in Class 5A, just like the Ike girls did hours before them.
"I can't say enough about their character because they could've folded or turned on each other and made excuses, but they didn't," Ike coach Todd Millwee said. "They are all pumping each other up and cheering the team on. It's really a great group of kids in terms of character and maturity."
For a team that struggled mightily to find its offensive groove in the first half, the Eagles turned to their defense late in the game to create quick scoring opportunities. Ike (17-9) grabbed 14 steals in the game and forced 16 second half Ardmore (14-13) turnovers to trim the deficit to 44-39 entering the fourth quarter.
"We got after them at half and challenged them that our season was about to be over if we didn't trust our defense and push the ball," Millwee said. "One of our best offenses is our defense. We began to trust our defense and get some deflections and get out in the open court."
Off an Ardmore inbounds pass, RJ Fisher leapt high in the air for what turned out to be the biggest steal of the game before dropping a dime in transition to Kinyon Parker for a layup and a 48-46 lead with 2:28 left.
"We watched film this morning (Saturday) and we knew they were lazy on inbounds passes," Fisher said. "So I just read the play and Kinyon ran the floor perfectly and got us a big bucket."
Romio Harvey led Ike with 16 points and Fisher had 11 points, seven assists, four steals and four rebounds to stuff the stat sheet while dropping multiple dimes to Parker, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half.
"Millwee told me to be aggressive going to the rack and finish strong," Parker said. "My shot wasn't falling so I just had to get to the rack and go up strong."
Parker's transition layup was Ike's first lead since early in the second quarter, when the Eagles had scored nine straight to take a 20-17 lead. But Ardmore buckled down and answered with a 19-4 run of its own to take the momentum into half.
"We underestimated the emotional high Ardmore would be on after a win and the low that we'd be on after the loss to Carl Albert," Millwee said. "Those kids have a lot of fight to battle back and not give up."
Millwee had warned the Eagles of the impending danger given team morale was high for the Tigers coming in. Not only were the players aware of it, they knew how to react to it.
"We came off a loss the other night and they had just won so it was an emotional roller coaster for both teams," Fisher said. "Coach told us at half to stay up."
"We didn't want this to be our last game," Parker echoed. "So we just fought back and battled hard."