With three and a half minutes to play, Gerald Isom drilled a 3-pointer to give the Choctaw Central boys basketball team its first lead since the final minute of the first half.
Louisville didn’t relent, however, and tied the game at 59 apiece on a 3-point play with 1:19 left, but a 3-point play by Isom on the other end 12 seconds later wound up being the difference as the Warriors kept the Wildcats from getting clean looks from the perimeter in the waning seconds and held on for a 64-59 victory to claim the Region 4-4A championship Friday at Northeast Lauderdale.
“This is a special group of guys who have bought into what we’re trying to do, and they have really flourished,” Warriors head coach Brent Farmer said. “Blue collar-type work always prevails in my opinion, and this group proved it tonight.”
Octavious Jones scored a team-high 23 points and added six rebounds for Choctaw Central (21-10). William McKinney poured in 19 points, and Isom added 10 points and six boards.
“It was all about staying together. We all know; when one guy messed up, we all came in and told him not to worry about it,” Jones said. “The main thing was playing together. There’s no selfishness. We just try to stick together, and come out there and do our thing.”
The two squads traded leads seven times in the first half. A 9-0 run by Louisville in the first quarter gave it an early 11-2 lead, but two 3’s from Mckinney helped Choctaw Central even the score at 14-14 heading into the second, which Jones started by hitting a shot from beyond the arc to put the Warriors ahead.
The Wildcats responded with a 10-0 run to go up by seven, but then Choctaw Central answered with nine straight points of its own, five coming from Jones, to pull ahead 26-24 with 3:57 to play in the first half. After Louisville nailed a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead, McKinney hit a shot from the perimeter, and Jones scored on a reverse layup on consecutive possessions to give the Warriors their last lead until Isom’s clutch 3 in the fourth quarter.
Seven straight points for the Wildcats gave them a 36-33 edge at halftime, which they extended by scoring five more in a row to open the third period to lead by eight. Louisville and Choctaw Central traded buckets through the end of the frame, with Louisville leading 49-44 heading into the fourth.
Back-to-back field goals by the Warriors, scored by McKinney and Treundes Willis, made it 52-48 with 6:04 left in the regulation. Ahead 54-53 two minutes later, the Wildcats were called for a charge on a drive to the basket, which gave way for Isom’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:30 to play.
Louisville tied the game at 56-56 with less than two minutes to go before McKinney completed a 3-point play to put his squad up by three. Louisville evened the score again with its own 3-point play, which Isom followed by completing his with 1:07 left.
The Wildcats put up two potential game-tying 3s in the final 25 seconds, with heavy defense by the Warriors, but failed to get one in the bucket. Isom laid in a final shot at the buzzer running out the clock down the floor.
“(Louisville) has a bunch of great players, and we were at the end of our ropes just trying to stay in front, and we were able to do that,” Farmer said. “Things just went our way I guess.”
Vasedrick Culberson made five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 26 points for Louisville (15-9). Ty Cooper added 17 points and nine rebounds.
Jones, McKinney and Willis were named to the All-Tournament team. Choctaw Central earned its seventh-straight victory with the win and clinched a No. 1 seed and first-round home playoff game in next week’s Class 4A state playoffs.