By Shawn Hein
SKIATOOK – Owasso and Star Spencer looked to be headed for an exciting conclusion to their highly-competitive battle Saturday afternoon in the Skiatook Invitational.
Instead the game finished on a very ugly tone.
The Rams and Bobcats had several chippy moments throughout the third place game inside Brooks Walton Activity Center. In a rare move, officials even gathered both teams together at center court just prior to the start of the second half with hopes of defusing tensions. With 57 seconds remaining in the contest, an Owasso player was whistled for both a common and technical foul. Star Spencer knocked down three of four free throw attempts and extended its lead to 50-46. As the Bobcats were set to inbound the ball, tempers briefly flared up again. The officials decided they had enough and ended the game.
While the referees conferred with the scorer’s table and event officials, no official announcement was made by the public dress announcer. Ram players and coaches exited the floor along with the referees while Star Spencer players and coaches remained on the floor, a move that was later explained as a way to keep tensions from potentially escalating in the tunnel near both locker rooms.
The wild scene included reports of fans of both schools approaching each other near the concourse area in the arena. Skiatook Police and school officials worked quickly to ease tensions as fortunately nothing escalated beyond verbal exchanges.
“I guess it got out of control,” Owasso coach Brian Montonati said afterwards. “Too physical and got a little crazy at the end. Kids spitting in kids’ faces at the end and they just decided to call it.
“I’m disappointed. Our kids played their tails off the second half. I thought, for the most part, our kids held their composure. You can only do so much when dudes are spitting in your face. We wanted to play basketball. That’s why we came here.”
Former Owasso coach and current State Rep. Mark Vancuren, who was in attendance, said he had never seen anything like it during his 30-year career on the sidelines. Montonati played at Oklahoma State and professionally overseas for nearly a decade, but Saturday’s stoppage was a first for him as well.
“One thing we always pride ourselves in our program is we’re going to keep our mouths shut and we’re going to play,” Montonati said. “But, at the same time, I’m not going to let anybody disrespect our kids. Our kids play too hard. They do the right thing. Are they perfect? No, but I’m not going to let anybody disrespect them.”
The ending spoiled what had been an entertaining game as the Rams trailed by as many as 13 early in the third quarter, at 32-19, but used a fierce rally to close the gap to 36-34 going into the fourth quarter. An 11-0 Ram rip in the fourth quarter gave Owasso a 46-42 lead when Star Spencer countered with eight unanswered prior to the surprise ending.
“We got down big time and we fought back,” Montonati said. “Kids showed a lot of heart and toughness in the second half. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to finish.
“Tensions were high and I think they wanted to test us with their physical play and intimidate our kids and stuff like that and get them back on their heels. But I’m proud of them. For the most part, we fought our tails off in the second half.”
The Rams and Star Spencer were pitted against each other after Webster was forced to forfeit their spot in the third place game when Tulsa Public Schools cancelled athletic events due to Saturday’s inclement weather.
Aaron Potter paced Owasso with 15 points. Kyler Mann added 11 points while Caden Fry and Trenton Ellison had seven each.
Brandon Zeno led the Bobcats with 16 points while teammate Brundon Petit finished with 14.