Excerpt from James Jackson – The Daily Oklahoman
Steven Alexander could only watch as the shot left the Weatherford player’s hand.
In a one-point game, in the final seconds, the Douglass boys basketball coach hoped the shot by the wide-open Eagle missed. It did. The shot clanked off the rim, and Douglass’ Landry Ballard Jr. soared in the air and grabbed the rebound. The celebration began even after Ballard was fouled with 2.5 seconds left to play and a technical foul was called on Weatherford.
“When I grabbed it,” Ballard said, “I just knew that I had to hold on to it, they were going to come foul me. So, I just grabbed it with two hands and made sure I came down with it.”
Ballard grabbed the rebound and there was no doubt it was happening. Douglass was back on top.
Douglass took down Weatherford 48-44 for the Class 4A state championship at State Fair Arena on Saturday. It’s Douglass’ 11th state championship and first since 2017, when the Trojans went back-to-back.
“I told them, ‘Guys it’s three seconds to what we’ve been playing for,’” Alexander said. “‘Three seconds for all of the hard work that we put in. So, just to be smart, don’t do anything to ruin those three seconds.' I was proud that they were able to use their brain. The boys played smart, kept their composure when they made their run. Very proud of my team tonight.”
While Douglass, a storied boys' basketball program, was searching to get back on top, Weatherford was playing in its first state title game since 1998.
Douglass went on a run first, taking place at the end of the second quarter. Terry McMorris found Davon Scott in the corner for a 3-pointer. Ballard grabbed a steal at midcourt and finished on the other end with a layup. McMorris then grabbed a steal and laid it up for an and-1 score. The rally concluded with James Greenhoward knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Douglass a 33-17 halftime lead.
"Weatherford, being a good team when they slow the ball down, when they get it inside, they're very hard to stop," Alexander said. "So, we felt like our best chance would be to hop on them early to where we can speed the game up and play our style."
But the Eagles adjusted and responded with a run in the fourth quarter.
Instead of driving to the lane, Weatherford began to knock down outside shots after causing Douglass to commit turnovers. Ethan Sage knocked down a 3-pointer with about five minutes remaining that cut Douglass’ lead to five. And then Tate Sage hit a 3-pointer of his own that made it a 3-point game with about a minute-and-a-half left.
“Just stick together,” McMorris said of his conversations with teammates during Weatherford’s run. “Teams make runs, that’s what teams do. So, just stick together.”
Douglass prevailed in the final moments, even though Weatherford’s CJ Nickson finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Ethan Sage added nine points and Tate Sage added seven. For Douglass, McMorris finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Ballard totaled 10 points and eight rebounds, while Greenhoward had eight points.
McMorris won a state championship with Del City two years. Now, he's a two-time state champion. “This one is better,” McMorris said with a smile. “It’s my last year so, this one is better.”
Along with McMorris, Alexander came to Douglass to capture a title as well. It was all to get the program back on top.
“The culture behind Douglass basketball is something special,” Alexander said. “The community behind Douglass basketball is something special, so I just wanted to give them something to be proud of. So, for us, this is everything. Our boys put it all on the line, to try to pull this out for the community as well.”