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4A powers Kingfisher, Weatherford to square off in Buckle of the Wheatbelt boys title contest

Yellowjackets put a 78-game home winning streak on the line against Eagles

By Josh Jennings 

Photo of Weatherford's Jackson Smith 

KINGFISHER - Weatherford and Kingfisher are two of the top boys teams in Class 4A and will meet in the championship game of the Buckle of the Wheatbelt tournament at 7:20 p.m. Saturday.

Weatherford (ranked No. 3) defeated Perkins-Tryon, 52-39, in the semifinals, using a huge 20-0 run in the third quarter to win this game.

Kingfisher (ranked No. 2) beat Guthrie, 69-44.

Lots are at stake for both teams as Kingfisher has a 78-game home winning streak and Weatherford is the only undefeated team in Class 4A. Kingfisher has lost two games, but both losses came in the Tournament of Champions, to Dale and Crossings Christian.

Weatherford and Kingfisher also met in the 2021 Buckle of the Wheatbelt final, and the Yellowjackets won that game.

Weatherford 52, Perkins-Tryon 39

Weatherford struggled early and in the first half, but the story of this game was the Eagles going on a 20-0 run in the third quarter.

“We had a phenomenal third quarter,” Weatherford coach Derrick Bull said. “Definitely made the difference in the game.

"We guarded well and Perkins is a good team who started well and hit us in the mouth. We did not respond well until the second half.”

Perkins was ahead, 24-19, at halftime and Weatherford needed more of a spark. They did that and more.

It started with star sophomore CJ Nickson knocking down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 24 and Perkins called a time out. Nickson only scored four points in the first half, but he scored 12 points in the second half.

“I knew I had to make some plays to get the energy back,” Nickson said. “I didn't play my best and picked it up in the second half.

"Credit to my teammates for playing well when I didn't play like I am capable of playing.”

Weatherford took the lead with Tate Sage hitting a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. He scored another 3-pointer to make the score 34-24 with more than two minutes to play in the third.

Weatherford extended it to 15, 39-24, going into the fourth quarter.

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Tucker Shepard scored the first points in the second half for Perkins when he drained a 3-pointer early in the fourth. He hit another one midway through the fourth to give the Demons a chance to get back in the game.

Perkins would not go away and cut the lead to 10, 48-38, with 40 seconds to play when Dylan Davidson hit a 3-pointer. 

Nickson put the final nail in the coffin with a dunk with 15 seconds to play.

Before the Eagles took over in the second half, Perkins jumped out to a quick 17-6 lead with plays like Davidson hitting a floater. This was the score at the conclusion of the first quarter, and Davidson scored eight of the 17 points.

Weatherford outscored the Demons in the second quarter. Sage knocked down two 3-pointers to cut the lead to two possessions.

“I was feeling good when I knocked down those shots,” he said. “They were just falling, and I was happy to knock them down when we needed them.”

Davidson scored 10 points in the first half for Perkins and scored 17 total points. Shepard scored four 3-pointers and 12 points for the Demons.

Weatherford saw three players score in double figures. Tate Sage scored 14 points, Ethan Sage scored 12 points and Nickson led the way with 16 points.

“I am so proud of our basketball team and how we fought through adversity,” Bull said. “It has been a while since we have had a close game and been challenged like we were today.

"Beating Kingfisher on their home floor will take a monumental effort. It will be a physical and hard game, but if we play like we did in the second half, we will have a chance to win this tournament.”

Kingfisher 69, Guthrie 44

This game was a rematch of last season’s Buckle of the Wheatbelt championship game, in which Kingfisher won, 60-40.

The first quarter was a slow start for both teams. However, Kingfisher closed the second quarter on a 16-0 run in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Cash Slezikey and Jax Sternberger buried back-to-back 3-pointers.

Sternberger also stole a pass and scored on a fast break. The Jackets kept forcing turnovers and were in front, 22-5, going into the second quarter. Caden Kitchens scored eight points in the first quarter.

“Well, we have some really good and really smart basketball players,” coach Jared Reese said. “They play hard as a group and they know how to execute and win.”

Like the first quarter, each team had a slow start in the second quarter.

Guthrie stopped the bleeding when Braydon Morgan scored a layup two minutes into the second quarter.

Kingfisher scored its first true bucket in the second quarter when Drake Friesen scored three points the old-fashioned way. The Yellowjackets were in front, 29-10, with three minutes to play.

The scoring went back and forth and Kingfisher was ahead, 34-15, at halftime.

Friesen scored 10 points in the first half for Kingfisher.

“When shots are going in, Coach Reese has confidence in me to do it again,” Friesen said. “We all scored well and played as a team. We executed extremely well and our defense was locked in, which leads to easy points."

Guthrie scored on its first three possessions but so did Kingfisher.

Sternberger performed a behind the back pass to Slezickey for an easy layup to make the score 42-21 with five minutes to play in the third quarter.

Kingfisher kept building its lead with plays like Friesen performing a four-point play. He scored a 3-pointer after that play, too, on the next possession.

Kitchens also scored two 3-pointers and a jump shot, which got him eight points in the third quarter.

Kingfisher built its lead to 57-31 going into the fourth quarter.

Kingfisher kept the foot on the gas pedal and kept scoring. Reese pulled his starters with three minutes to play. 

“I thought we played great and guarded really well,” Reese said. “We guard well and executed well as the game went along. It is tough for teams to come back on us once we get a lead.”

Four Jackets scored in double figures. Friesen scored 20 points, Kitchens 16 Jax Sternberger 13 points and Xavier Ridenour scored 11 points.

Jaylen Chef and Morgan scored 10 points for Guthrie.

Friesen said it will take a massive effort to keep their 78-game home win streak alive.

“Weatherford is big, tall and can play,” he said. “We must play good defense and knock down shots. We must outplay them and be prepared for a physical basketball game.”