By Nick Snow
TULSA, Okla. —
Like so many of the matchups over the last two years, Bixby gave the Stillwater High School boys basketball team all it could handle and more. Only this time the Pioneers did something they couldn’t do the last two years in the Class 6A Area Tournament — beat Bixby.
After having their season come to an end the last two years against Bixby, Stillwater exorcised its demons against the Spartans with a 68-63 win Friday at Will Rogers High School.
“It’s fantastic,” Stillwater junior Carson Teel said. “Just to win this game, knowing that they beat us the last two years is great. It was tough, but it feels really good.”
“It was huge,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “I know how (Bixby) feels. I’ve been in that locker room before. But it feels good to get that monkey off your shoulders.
Carson Teel hit four 3-pointers en route to a team-high 22 points. Two of those 3-pointers came in the second quarter as the Pioneers (18-7) outscored Bixby 26-14 to take a 41-30 lead by halftime.
“I trust my teammates with everything they do and they trust me that when I get open shots, I’m going to knock them down,” Teel said. “That’s what happened tonight. They got the ball to me and I knocked them down.”
But while Teel may get a lot of the credit, it was other players that helped the Pioneers break the curse against Bixby. Guys like freshman Jordan Brown, who tallied 11 points — including a 3-point play at the beginning of the second quarter that ignited Stillwater’s offense after a sluggish first quarter.
“Jordan played big,” Davis said. “We’ve learned that with Jordan when he’s rolling, let him roll. He ended up playing more than Jared Dickey because he was on a roll. Jordan’s just touching the tip of the iceberg of what he’s going to be.”
It wasn’t easy for the Pioneers, who watched a 14-point third quarter lead dwindle to six after Bixby ended the quarter with a 8-0 run.
That’s what was different this year. The Pioneers wouldn’t let Bixby complete the comeback as Teel’s 3-pointer with 6:07 left in the fourth quarter gave Stillwater the final push it needed to hold off the Spartans.
“They never quit,” Davis said. “Coach (Kyle) Love and coach (Derrick) Verner kept on them and wouldn’t let them quit. They do a heck of a job for us. They keep me and check and they keep all our guys in check.”
After struggling to separate themselves from Bixby in the first quarter, Brown’s basket and foul helped coupled with Teel’s first 3-pointer of the game helped Stillwater open the second quarter with a 7-2 run. The Pioneers followed that up with another 10-2 run later in the quarter leading to an 11-point halftime.
“We came out a little flat to start the game but we started pushing the ball a little more,” Teel said. “Once we started moving it, we started getting open shots and knocked them down. Then we kept playing good defense.”
Bixby managed to pull within four twice in the fourth quarter — the last coming on Mitch Solomon’s 3-point play in the final minutes to close the gap to 68-65. But seniors Rico Thompson and Caleb Watkins knocked down just enough free throws to preserve the win for the Pioneers.
Along with Teel and Brown, Thompson finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Brett Budke had nine points and seven rebounds. Solomon led all scorers with 33 points and 11 rebounds for the Spartans.
With one win down and one to go, the Pioneers will head to Catoosa to face Broken Arrow Saturday. But while the win over Bixby was needed, Teel said they’re already over it and focused on the Tigers.
“We got focused,” Teel said. “Broken Arrow is a good team and they’re here for a reason. We have to come in with a focused team and execute our game plan.”