Perez arrival provided spark for Memorial
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Monday, March 11, 2013
3/11/13 at 7:54 AM
A pivotal moment in Memorial's run to the Class 5A boys state basketball title came during late January at Catoosa's Port City Classic.
The Chargers started 10-2 before losing to Edison and Booker T. Washington. That prompted Memorial coach Eric Savage to make a change and insert senior guard Devin Perez into the starting lineup.
Perez averaged 14 points in three Port City games, including a winning 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to beat 6A semifinalist Owasso in the title game.
"That Owasso game was something special," Perez said. "We knew they were going to be a state tournmament team and that was a big win for us.
"Coach Savage gave me my first start in that tournament against Claremore and I wanted to prove him right. We were struggling a little bit and he wanted to mixed some things up. He gave me a chance and I went with it."
And that culminated with Perez helping Memorial win the state championship and being the Tulsa World's selection as the state tournament's most valuable player.
He scored 48 points in three games.
"Devin gave us a lot of senior leadership out there the whole state tournament." said junior guard Demari Edwards, who had 30 points in three games.
Leadership comes naturally for Perez, who sat out his junior season to focus on baseball. Memorial went 11-14 last season.
"I knew we were going to have a good team," Perez said. "Last year we were real young and I knew I could provide leadership more than anything. I feel like I've always been a leader throughout my life."
Perez had a career-high 25 against Midwest City Carl Albert in the state quarterfinals, and scored 18 on 7-of-9 shooting from the field in a 59-42 victory over defending champion Oklahoma City McGuinness in the title game.
"He brings our confidence level up tremendously through his play and with his leadership, with what he does both on and off the court," Savage said. "You can say that about (starting forward) Grant Murphy as well."
After the game ended, the Chargers players, led by Murphy and junior forward Mike'Quan Deane, went over to their student section to share the celebration with them.
"I'll never forget it," Murphy said. "It's the best feeling in the world. When the clock finally ticked to zero I started to cry on the court. It was awesome. It's something I've dreamed about since I was 5 or 6 years old.
"We had to support our fans. They come out to every game and that's special to us."
For Perez, Murphy and senior starter Anthony White (who had a game-high four assists), they finally got to hold the gold ball that eluded them when they lost while watching on the bench as freshmen to Booker T. Washington in the 2010 title game.
"The gold ball is a little heavy but that's OK," Murphy said with a big smile.
Perez will likely play baseball in college, although he's not shutting the door on basketball. Murphy is undecided on whether that was his final basketball game.
"This might be it for me unless something else comes along," Murphy said. "I'm definitely content with it ending this way. If something else comes along that would be great, but going out as a state champion, you can't beat it."
Woodard overcomes injury: Oklahoma signee Jordan Woodard, who was averaging 17 points per game, didn't look like his normal self on offense with only 10 points in the last two games of the 6A state tournament.
Edmond Memorial coach Shane Cowherd revealed after Woodard's tip-in at the buzzer to beat Midwest City 49-48 in the title game that Woodard was plagued by a hamstring injury throughout the season, but it was aggravated in the semifinals Friday.
"Jordan is playing on a torn hamstring," Cowherd said. "He is playing on one leg. A lot of people don't know that. We told everybody he was fine and we tried to convince Jordan he was fine, but the kid has a hamstring that is basically shredded.
"The fact that he was able to come out and do what he did on one leg against obviously a very, very aggressive, real good defensive team - he's the greatest player I've ever had. Maybe the toughest kid I have ever coached, What a winner."
It was fitting that Woodard, who also started the winning sequence in the last 7.1 seconds with a steal that led to teammate Tyler Holcomb's two missed close-range shots, had the winning tip-in after he missed a shot at the buzzer in a 37-36 loss to Union in the 2012 state final.
"I think it is for him," Woodard said. "I am just so happy for my kids."
The 6A tournament most valuable player is Edmond Memorial center Shaquille Morris. The 6-8 Wichita State signee had 58 points, including 16 dunks, and 42 rebounds. Morris played for Edmond Santa Fe in last year's state tournament before moving to Edmond Memorial.
"I never doubted we were going to win and I'm so glad we did," Morris said.
Rare shootout: Stephen Clark's 50 points for Oklahoma City Douglass and Seth Youngblood's 41 points for Roland in Douglass' 82-80 win in Saturday's 4A final became the second time two players playing against each other eclipsed 40 points individually in a state tournament game. The first were Kirk Wilson of Binger (43) and Kevin Rehl of Snyder (44) in 1981.
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(World correspondent John D. Ferguson contributed to this story.)
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393