Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tigers take gold ball

We can all learn something from the Talihina boys basketball team.

The Tigers had made three straight trips to the state tournament going into this year, and finished second the last two years, losing to Pawnee both times by one point in overtime.

When the OSSAA announced the classes for the state, perennial power Oklahoma City Millwood was dropping into 2A and was given the top ranking.

Also, Pawnee was back and would probably be in Talihina’s way.

But despite the disappointment of coming up short the last two years, the Tigers were focused on winning this time, not satisfied with another second-place finish. Somebody once said it wasn't about winning or losing, but how you played the game.

For this group of players, after all the blood, sweat and tears, it was about winning. And then meant winning state.

Talihina took care of business, losing only two games during the regular season, one to eventual Class 5A state champion Tulsa Washington and the other to Tulsa Edison.

The Tigers won the LeFlore County Tournament and dominated in the postseason, winning all four games to qualify for another trip to Oklahoma City.

In the state tournament, Talihina defeated Chouteau and then Stratford. All that was left was another appearance in the finals, another shot at winning the elusive state championship.

And that is exactly what happened Saturday morning when the Tigers won state with a 42-27 win over Preston, a team which Talihina defeated in the area tournament last week.

Preston sent Pawnee and Millwood packing in reaching the finals. But despite a double-digit win over Preston last week, this was not easy for Talihina.

The Tigers trailed 25-22 in the third quarter. Senior Chris Capsey hit his lone basket of the day, a three pointer to tie the score. Taggart Lockhart followed with a pair of free throws and Talihina had the lead for good.

Things were still tight at 29-27 before Talihina went on a 13-0 run to finish the game and capture the first boys state basketball championship.

The Tigers’ great group of seniors capped off their fabulous career with the win they wanted the most. Lockhart and Jordan EagleRoad were four-year starters. Jace Chancellor and Capsey started the final two seasons.

Michael Bugos played most of the finals while Taylor Hubbard and Garrett Williams also contributed.

It is doubtful we will ever see a group of seniors like this again in LeFlore County and a fitting going away present for coach Chris Gillespie, who has announced he is hanging up his coaching whistle.

This was also Gillespie’s first state championship after 30 years of coaching. He will also be missed.


  1. It's good to see a LeFlore county team do well. Congrats to the Tigers.