By JASON EPP
Leader & Times
TULSA, OKLA.—The Vinita Hornets jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead less than two minutes into the Tournament of Champions opening round game against Class B, No.1 Forgan. But Forgan answered with a barrage of threes and spectacular plays at the rim in a 16-0 run over the next four minutes. The Forgan Bulldogs never trailed again, winning 79-67.
“That’s how games are going to go when you face good teams,” said Forgan coach Todd Kerr. “Sometimes you’re going to get in a hole, and you have to find a way to jump back. They got on us, and then we made some plays and got going.”
Forgan’s offense is what got it going. Ryan Radcliff (25 points) started the scoring with a three, and scored 11 during the 16-0 run. The three-point shot was a powerful weapon, as Forgan made 11 of them – all in the first twenty minutes of the game, and by six different players. As a team the Bulldogs shot 62 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line.
But Vinita did not go away easily. The Hornets hit two threes to end the first quarter, still trailing 19-14. Vinita hit three more to start the second quarter, but could not cut into the Bulldogs five-point lead. Back-to-back threes by Trevin Lopez (14 points) and Jake Regier (10 points) pushed the lead to double digits at 34-23 with 4:12 left in the half.
“Defensively, we’ve been preaching perimeter, perimeter, perimeter, but they’re pretty quick off the bounce too, and have good movement,” said Kerr. “They shoot the three really well; not as well as we did tonight, but pretty well.”
Forgan maintained a double digit lead into halftime leading 46-36.
Trouble appeared again for the Bulldogs early in the second half in the form of another slow start and foul trouble. Ryan Radcliff picked up his third foul 13 seconds into the second half, and Rhett Radcliff was called for his third just minutes later. Vinita scored the first six of the half to crawl within four just a minute and a half into the third quarter.
But Regier and Ryan Radcliff each hit their second three and Trevin Lopez hit his third as the lead was pushed up to 11 again midway through the third quarter. Vinita was never able to cut the lead to single-digits again. Jace Kerr scored 9 of his 13 points over the games last 11 minutes, and the Bulldogs made 7 of 11 free throws down the stretch.
“It was a really good win for us, and puts us over there with some really, really stiff competition,” said Kerr. “I’m just really excited and happy for our kids. They played so hard. We did some stuff without our full squad out there tonight, and had kids step up and make plays tonight. Everybody who played tonight played well and hit shots, and made it hard to guard us.”
Forgan advances to the semifinals where the will face 6A No.1 Tulsa Union who defeated 2A No.8 Caddo 105-38 in their opening round game. Union is the second-largest school in the state, and has a student enrollment over 80 times larger than Forgan. That does not seem to faze Forgan.
“Just have fun,” said Kerr. “What a challenge. Our kids are going to go out there and play as hard as they can, and give the best effort they can give, and however it turns out it’s just fun to be here.”