By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Last season, the Sequoyah Indians made their first state tournament appearance in four years.
With two of the top three scorers returning from last year’s squad, including the 2012-13 Phoenix Newcomer of the year, expectations are high for the Indians, earning them the top spot in the Phoenix boys’ Super 7.
Sequoyah finished 20-9 last season, advancing to the Class 3A semifinals. Caisen Green, a 6-feet 2-inch senior guard who averaged 13 points, four rebounds and three assists per game, will be the main scoring threat for the Indians. Joining Green from last year’s team is B.J. Leach, a 6-0 junior guard who poured in an average of 10.2 points per contest while pulling down 4.4 rebounds per game and was named the All-Phoenix Newcomer of the Year.
“Caisen has elevated his game,” Herrin said. “He’s worked on things I’ve asked him to do and he’s one of the very best athletes I’ve coached in any sport. B.J. had a good sophomore season, fighting through a lot of injuries. He’s going to be healthy and B.J. is as good a player as there is on both ends of the court.”
Besides Green and Leach, the Indians have a nucleus of players that saw playing time last season and that depth has Herrin, last year’s All-Phoenix Boys Coach of the Year, optimistic of making another deep postseason run.
Zack Parish (6-2, Jr., F) has earned the starting sport at power forward and was one of the main players off the bench for Herrin last year. Elijah Tucker (6-3), Sr., P) started a few games last season but will the main weapon inside for the Indians.
“Elijah was mostly a backup post last year,” Herrin said. “He’s a big body and scores around the basket pretty well. Zack really came on towards the end of last season and was one of the key reason’s we were able to beat Centennial in the area final, because he was able to handle the ball against their pressure.”
Nick Kingfisher (6-2, Sr., F) returns to basketball after sitting out last year while Quinton Johnson (5-10, Jr., G) will handle the point guard spot.
“Quinton backed up Niko Hammer last year and played in every game,” Herrin said. “He was our best free-throw shooter and one of our best 3-point shooters. Nick tried his hand at wrestling last year but I’m glad to have him back this year. He’s real good in transition and a long rebounder.”
Another school that is looking to return to the big stage is Muskogee, earning the No. 2 spot in the Super 7.
“I’ve learned the players a little more and they’ve learned what we’re expecting,” said second-year coach Josh Berry, the first second-year coach Muskogee's had since the 2010-11 season, Terry Scott's third and final season.
Under Berry, the Roughers finished 8-16, bowing out in the first round of the 6A regional, and return all but two members from last year’s team including the top three scorers in seniors Anthony King (6-1, Sr., 13.5 ppg), David Beasley (6-1, Sr., 13 ppg) and Tramal Ivy (6-5, Sr., 13 ppg), a member of the 2012-13 All-Phoenix team.
“Tramal averaged a double-double last year and Anthony almost averaged one,” Berry said. “Those two did the bulk of the rebounding. Beasley handled the ball the most and was probably better at breaking down the other team’s defense.”
The depth of the Roughers’ lineup features two players that could have a major impact in Cantrell Ashley and Lavare Reed.
“They played quite a bit this summer and have gotten a lot better,” Berry said. “Those two are probably going to be the surprise alone.”
The Ironheads finished last year at 14-12, falling in the Class 3A regional consolation round, but should improve on that with three starters returning.
Leading the way is Devon Garfield, a 6-0 senior guard, the Ironheads' leading scorer last season averaging 14.2 points. Devon Siers, a 5-10 senior guard, was third on the team in scoring (12 ppg) and returns for final campaign while Daxton Williams, a 6-3 junior forward, averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds per contest.
Eufaula coach Brad Campbell is very high on his interior size to balance out his guard play. Juniors Gage Durrett (6-2) and Colton Caldwell (6-1) will pound the glass in the front court.
Pat Dotson could probably not ask for a better nucleus to work with in his first season as the Tigers’ coach.
Dotson, a 24-year veteran of the coaching ranks, has four of the five full-time starters coming back from a team that finished 9-14 last year.
Leading the way is Dalton Cunningham, a 6-6 junior forward who averaged 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and a third-team All-Metro Conference selection.
The Tigers’ strengths will be senior leadership, athleticism and ability to run the floor.
The Haymakers return their top two players from last year’s Class 3A regional consolation finalist and welcome a new coach.
Wesley Hayes comes over to Haskell from Nowata and brings with him 6-1 senior guard Micah Hayes to join two other 6-1 senior guards in Alex Wheeland, a member of the 2012-13 All-Phoenix team who averaged 20 points, and Wes Davis (10 ppg).
Another strength for the Haymakers is depth. All but one player returns from last year in hopes of pushing Haskell to the next level.
Jason Dowdy returns for his second season at the helm of the Wildcats and welcomes back two key players from last season.
Deshawn Jackson, a 5-9 forward, leads the way and brings a 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounding average with him heading into his final season. Accompanying him is fellow senior Cameron Pipe, a 6-4 forward, that averaged 9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per outing.
The top newcomers for the Wildcats consist of all juniors, four guards and a post player. The four guards are Deshay Bear (5-9), Blake Colburn (5-10), Cody Cox (5-9) and Dayton Ellen (5-9). Manning the post position is Dominic Pulse (6-3).
7. Fort Gibson
The Tigers came within an eyelash of making the state tournament, falling in the Class 4A Area IV consolation finals to Muldrow.
Finishing at 24-5 with a senior-heavy lineup in 2012-13, Fort Gibson features one returner from that squad in junior Jordan London, a 6-0 guard that averaged 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, earning him a spot on the All-Phoenix team.
While the Tigers are inexperienced, coach Gary Hendrix believes his team will improve as the season progresses. Hendrix will rely on newcomers Stephen Edwards (6-6, Sr., C), Rayne Cox (6-0, Sr., F), Dakota Lashley (6-3, Sr., F), Coleman Crawley (6-0, Jr., G) and Chris Simpson (6-0, Jr.. G) to get the Tigers through the early part of the schedule.
OKTAHA – The Tigers finished 23-6 last season and returns top scorer Dustin Leach, a 6-2 senior guard that averaged 14.8 points per game in landing a spot on the All-Phoenix team. While the team lacks experience, the depth could be a benefit as the tigers move up to Class 3A.
BRAGGS – The Wildcats have a young but veteran squad that finished 10-15 on the year, bowing out to Bluejacket in the Class B districts. Three of the Wildcats’ top four scorers from last year return and have Braggs ready to make an impact.
Players to watch
PAYTON YORK (5-10, Jr., G), Braggs – The Wildcats’ leading scorer averaged 21.7 points per game as a sophomore and that number could get higher as a more experienced team surrounds him.
Ya’Aquoob KinG (6-5, Sr., C), Wagoner – His presence is going to be felt in the middle as he averaged 9.2 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game in 2012-13, the latter leading the state.