BOYS BASKETBALL: Henry's late 3 wins Oologah district title in 2-OT thriller

Feb. 20—SKIATOOK — The Bulldogs were ready to swarm Eli DeSpain.

The 6-foot-1 senior shooting guard has been Oologah's go-to guy all season, and that was the case again Friday night. So when the Mustangs — trailing by one — inbounded the ball with 20.4 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Skiatook was ready to prevent DeSpain from taking a shot.

The same went for Lane Brown, who hit a 3-pointer to open both overtime periods. As soon as either DeSpain or Brown touched the ball, a double-team was initiated.

However, no one was looking for Jaden Henry.

As Oologah swung the ball around the perimeter looking for an opening, the senior found himself all alone on the right wing. All in one motion, Brown gathered a bounce pass, faked a shot and passed to Henry, who seamlessly drained a wide-open 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds remaining to give the Mustangs a 55-54 double-overtime victory over the Bulldogs in the Class 4A Area I District 8 championship at the Brooks Walton Activity Center.

And it all unfolded according to plan.

"We had a diversion for (DeSpain) because he was pretty much getting triple-teamed," said Henry, who finished with 8 points and 1 rebound. "... It came to my hands, and coach said, 'Shoot it' and I shot it. Coach had faith in me to hit that shot."

For Oologah coach Caleb Branscum, the call was a no-brainer. Although the sequence wasn't necessarily drawn up for Henry in particular, Branscum knew he was a clutch shooter.

Although he wasn't yet the coach, Branscum was familiar with Henry's game-saving shot against Locust Grove in a four-overtime contest during the 2022 playoffs.

Now, thanks to Henry, the Mustangs (15-10) are one victory away from equaling their win total from the past two seasons combined as they continue their first winning season since the 2019-20 campaign.

"With me being a senior, this one feels even more surreal because I really feel like we have a good shot to go far this year," Henry said. "We haven't gone far in probably 10-plus years at this school, so I feel like there's really a change in our culture, and it just feels crazy to hit another one."

It was a battle of two seemingly evenly matched teams, so it was no surprise the game went into overtime.

Regulation treated spectators to 12 ties, with neither team holding more than a 5-point lead at any juncture. That slim edge came thanks to a 5-0 run from Oologah's Ayden Gaines in the second quarter, giving the Mustangs an 18-13 lead.

Of course, that advantage didn't last long as Skiatook closed the period with an 8-3 run to force a 21-all halftime tie. Oologah did regain a 5-point advantage, though, at 28-23 early in the third quarter and again later in the period at 35-30 thanks to a 3-point play from DeSpain.

Despite a defensive adjustment that saw the Mustangs go from forcing zero turnovers in the first half to six in the third quarter and 12 overall, that shot-for-shot matching trend continued into the second half, ultimately leading to overtime after Bulldog sophomore Cody Dearing hit a pair of free throws with 0:42 remaining to knot the score at 44 apiece.

There were five deadlocks in the fourth quarter alone.

"The first half was kind of boring, and in the second half, it was like both teams wanted it really bad," Branscum said. "Both teams hit some big shots throughout the way. We extended our zone a little bit up top. That was one of the adjustments I had with their point guard out — to pressure the ball — but we were trying to wait until the second half to be able to do that."

Only two shots were made in the first overtime, and both were 3-pointers. Brown hit the first to give Oologah a 47-44 lead, but the Mustangs went cold after that, and Skiatook eventually tied it up again with a 3 from Hunter Howell at the 1:15 mark.

Brown opened the second overtime with another 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs rallied with the next 4 points to take a 51-50 advantage. Oologah junior Jaden Tanner — who grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds — then notched a putback layup with 0:50 remaining, but Howell's fourth 3 gave Skiatook a 54-52 edge at the 0:27 mark.

Henry sent the Mustangs to the winners bracket with the game-winning shot just 19 seconds later, avenging their loss to the Bulldogs from seven days prior. Oologah plays No. 16 Community Christian in Regional C at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln Christian in Tulsa.

Gaines led the Mustangs with 14 points and 4 rebounds, while DeSpain reached double figures as well with 13 points and 7 boards. Brown also had a notable outing with 8 points and a rebound, as did Reed Barron with 9 rebounds alongside 5 points.

Skiatook's Howell led all scorers with 23 points and 3 rebounds, and Baldino added 13 points with 6 boards. Dearing came close to double figures with 9 points and 4 boards, and Larry King pitched in 6 points and 4 rebounds while Cole Bray (3 points) matched a team-high in rebounds with 6.

"I think we came to fight a little harder tonight, knowing what it was for and where the stakes were at," Branscum said.