By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Opening with a pair of games against quality teams from Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the Stillwater High School boys basketball team knew the Stillwater Basketball Festival was a chance to make a statement no matter who they faced. And the Pioneers weren't going to go down without a fight.
The Pioneers lived up to that statement Friday at the Pioneer Fieldhouse, holding off Southeast 62-54 in the final game of the festival.
“Southeast is from the rough part of Oklahoma City,” Stillwater senior Rico Thompson said. “They played rough, they played tough. We had to match it and we came with it tonight. We don't care who we're playing. We show up and we show out. We have to come ready to play every game.”
Thompson had 20 points and knocked down 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter to lead the Pioneers. He also finished with 8 assists and 9 rebounds, including an assist to Brett Budke that swung momentum in Stillwater's favor late in the fourth quarter.
“That's just typical Rico,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “He's got so much better at seeing the court. Some times he's a bit too unselfish, but he did what we work on in practice. If a guy commits to you, you make the pass and some way, some how he got it to him.”
Along with Thompson, Caleb Watkins also connected on all four of his free throws with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Stillwater (2-0) the win.
“Caleb knocked down a couple of big free throws,” Davis said. “I thought Caleb was rock-steady tonight. He had a handle on stuff. He's always going to be on demand with people he plays against. … He's a quiet leader that keeps us steady and he did his job.”
In a fast-paced game from the opening tip, Stillwater found itself trailing 13-12 after the first quarter.
That's when the Pioneer defense picked up. Stillwater held the high-powered Spartans offense to 4 points in the second quarter, taking a 24-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We played a matchup zone and doubled their big guy every time he caught the ball,” Davis said. “It kind of confused them because we don't play a typical zone. … We knew playing up and down with them, we can't match up with them athlete for athlete so we have to play smarter than teams that are as athletically talented as they are.”
Southeast came roaring back, taking a 43-42 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Pioneers refused to let this one slip away.
Stillwater (2-0) went on a 10-2 run over the middle of the fourth quarter to take control of the game. From there Thompson was able to knock down a couple key free throws as the Spartans never could overcome the run.
“The fourth quarter, coach Davis wanted me to be the closer,” Thompson said. “I was just doing what I had to do for my team to close the game and that was stepping up and hitting big free throws. Last year I had a bigger role of getting people open, but this year they need me to score more, so I'm doing whatever it takes to get the win.”
Along with Thompson, Jared Dickey tallied 14 points and Budke added 10. Carson Teel also added 8 points and 6 rebounds for the Pioneers, which will be off until next weekend's Bixby Tournament.
“It was real big to get two wins this weekend,” Thompson said. “Tulsa NOAH has one of the best sophomores in the nation and Southeast had some good big men. It was tough for us going up against a good guard and some good post players, but we're going to see that all season. It showed we can play with anybody. Our confidence is high right now.”