SKIATOOK – Less than 48 hours removed from its most complete game of the season, Owasso’s young bunch was hoping to repeat that effort Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Skiatook Invitational.
Duplicating the performance that resulted in a dominant 24-point road win against Frontier Valley Conference foe Sapulpa proved to be easier said than done. The Rams struggled in stretches inside Brooks Walton Activity Center but did fend off Class 5A No. 6 East Central, 47-44, for the victory (See PHOTO gallery).
With the win, Owasso (3-4) advanced to Friday’s semifinal round against either Edmond North or host Skiatook.
“The game Tuesday was an emotional game,” Owasso coach Brian Montonati said. “It was a high-energy game. There’s a little bit of a hangover in getting these guys prepared to play less than two days later. So we knew that we were going to struggle, the coaching staff did.”
The Rams jumped out to an early six-point lead in the first quarter but the feisty and athletic Cardinals tallied a six-rebound advantage over the taller Owasso squad through the first two quarters and, aided by an 11-5 stretch in the second quarter, took a 21-17 halftime advantage.
“We challenged them at halftime because we were getting outrebounded,” Montonati said. “I thought we were playing a little soft. We had the size on them and had the athleticism to really dominate the boards and we didn’t do that in the first half.”
Owasso began to assert itself in the third quarter, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore Caden Fry, with five unanswered points late in the third quarter and led 30-28.
Fry finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Junior forward Kyler Mann tallied 13 points and eight rebounds despite being saddled with foul trouble.
Fry converted an offensive rebound into a three-point play early in the fourth quarter. Off another missed shot, Mann corralled the loose ball he turned into an easy bucket and later hit a free throw as Owasso took a 36-33 lead.
The Rams outrebounded East Central 16-6 over the final two quarters, seven of which were offensive boards.
“Coach made an emphasis on rebounding and making winning plays,” Fry recalled of Montonati’s halftime speech. “…We just had to calm down and execute. Run our stuff, get the shots we wanted and convert.”
Freshman EJ Lewis deflected an East Central pass into the hands of an Owasso teammate and moments later drilled a three-pointer from the corner as the Rams appeared to be pulling away with a 41-36 lead with 1:50 left in the contest.
But the Cardinals did not fold. They reeled off six quick points, capped by Delarente McCowan’s steal and basket with one minute remaining that suddenly regained a one-point lead, 42-41.
Following a timeout, Owasso’s Aaron Potter drove baseline and put up a floater that just danced off the rim but Mann was again there for an offensive putback and drew a foul in the process. Mann missed his ensuing free throw but Fry swiped the basketball and scored as the Rams regained a 45-42 lead.
“Kyler does a heck of a job of getting offensive and defensive rebounds,” Montonati said. “And he just made a play for us.”
Mann added two more free throws after another offensive board to help Owasso ice the victory.
McCowan led East Central with 10 points. Will McGuire added nine for the Cardinals (6-3).