Throughout their careers, there were comparisons between Lexy Keys and Angel Goodrich, two of not only the best girls basketball players ever at Sequoyah High School, but two of this area’s best.
It took a worldwide force — literally — to mark a distinguishing element in their accomplishments.
Keys, now a four-time All-Phoenix Most Valuable Player, just as Goodrich was, will leave school with just two championship rings in three state appearances. The fourth, which was largely expected to bring a third ring, ended before it started due to the coronavirus pandemic that first postponed the state tournament then last week, added it to the many sporting events worldwide that didn’t get played or won’t get played.
“The postponement prepared me for it even though we stayed hopeful and then when the state said no school or extra-curricular activities the rest of the year we pretty much knew it was over,” she said.
The next day, the OSSAA nailed the door shut.
A thumb injury in the quarterfinal was likely the only thing that kept them from winning it all her junior year, which ended in the semifinals. This year, Sequoyah lost one game all season and was atop the rankings all season.
“This is like the end of a chapter that’s been a huge part of my life. I wanted to rewrite what happened last year and I think we had a good chance of doing that,” she said.
She took a young team on as its true senior leader for Justin Brown, in his first season at Sequoyah after arriving from Locust Grove.
When we started the summer I could tell she was a coach on the floor,” he said. “She has maintained our expectations here, eight years in a row to qualify for state and had a lot to do with the last four. She’s left her mark on all our kids. That’s what good leaders do. It’s about stats here and there, but I talk to them all about what you leave behind and her impact on this program is clear.
“You look at her shot attempts and points scored, they were lowest since her freshman year. She had a different role and didn’t bat an eye at it. She just wanted to win, and that rubbed off on all our kids.
She wanted to make a good pass as much as she wanted to make a good shot.”
This year, she averaged 16.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.2 steals and was MVP in three regular season tournaments. That followed 19.1 and 19.2 the past two seasons, but her assists and steals were better than in any of her previous years.
As the boys MVP, Conner Calavan’s accomplishments were many in his Fort Gibson career, but a state tournament trip was not one of those. His brother, Carson, got to the finals twice, the last of those years when Conner played on a freshman team that went 19-0.
They played together his sophomore year and missed state by the same margin they did this year — one game.
“He got to the finals twice, but I don’t have any regrets,” Conner said. “I’ve been through that my whole life, people comparing us and all, but I kind of got used to it and rolled with it.”
When Carson’s class left, the leadership mantle was Conner’s. He demonstrated it in his work ethic.
“Conner was probably good enough to play as a freshman, but we were just really, really good,” said his coach, Todd Dickerson. “For him it was the typical success formula — there’s no secret. You have to put in the work, and that’s what he did.
“He set the tone in practice, and his presence made everybody else better.”
Calavan’s shooting in the clutch made Fort Gibson better. He had a streak that helped them take charge of their opener against Locust Grove. He hit a 3 with 3.1 seconds left to help the Tigers over Hilldale in December, and again a layup with 10 seconds to play as he scored 14 of his game-high 21 to beat Wagoner on the road, then had 37 points in a regional title game against Webster, the team that would rebound to eliminate the Tigers in the area consolation finals.
His numbers for the year: 21.1 points per game, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists. He was a 40-percent shooter from beyond the arc and 55 percent overall. He is a three-time selection to the team, having made Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore.
Keys heads to UT-Arlington. Calavan will join his brother again at Central Oklahoma.
“From the time we could walk we were always competing. Basketball was all we did,” he said. “We had a goal in our house and put five or six holes in the walls playing upstairs. It’s going to be so much fun to play with him again at UCO.”
Jeff Oliver hadn’t made it to state in 27 seasons of coaching. He almost got there twice this year. Eufaula’s boys lost by two points in the area consolation finals, just after Eufaula’s girls won and advanced to state for the first time since 1993.
But the same virus-related fate that struck Keys struck Oliver, and in less than a week he went from what could have been two tickets to one, to no chance at living out that dream.
But his double-duty paid off with a team photo in front of the Big House in Oklahoma City and being selected as the Phoenix’s Coach of the Year on both sides of the gender line.
“You go from getting to celebrate for all of two minutes after our girls won to changing your frame of mind and getting your notes out ready for the boys game, so I felt a little short-changed in that part of the experience as well,” he said.
“But I’m proud of both journeys, and proud of our kids. They emulated team. We’re not a community where everybody’s best players come from around us. We won with Ironhead kids, kids who have lived there a long time, and those who did move back did so because their parents went to school there.”
And while it took what he called “the perfect storm” to derail the journey — from the Jazz players who tested positive in a game at Oklahoma City the day before state began, to all the pieces falling apart in the college ranks — he pockets this as a positive for a senior-laden group who, like he said, won’t get to come back like he and his underclassmen.
“This year, eight of us in 3A won our last game. Any other year, that only happens to one team,” he said. “We came in where Adair was in the rankings and they wound up winning it all last year. We thought we could have done that. I still do. We just won’t ever get to see.”
Other boys team members were Zane Adams of Haskell, second in the MVP voting after winning that honor last year, Hilldale’s Ty O’Neal and T.J. Maxwell, Sequoyah’s C.J. Soap and Brayden Haddock, Checotah’s Brendan Dan and Caden Martin, Muskogee’s Xavier Brown, Eufaula’s Alex Parrish, Fort Gibson’s Tommy French, Braggs’ Parker York, Midway’s Geral Washington, Wagoner’s Jacob Scroggins and Oktaha’s Preston Holmes, the last named Newcomer of the Year.
Adams, Soap, Maxwell, Van Daley and Dan were repeat selections.
Joining Keys was Fort Gibson’s Zoey Whiteley, second in the MVP vote. They were joined by a pair of teammates, Keys by Smalls Goudeau and Whiteley by Baylee London.
Warner’s Jaylee Kindred, Checotah’s Olivia Clayton and Vanessa Henson, Okay’s Shayni Green, Sequoyah’s Smalls Goudeau, Eufaula’s Ashley Mills and Journi James, Webbers Falls’ Samantha Shanks, Vian’s Kahleisha Wright, Keys’ Kylie Eubanks, Oktaha’s Rylee Walters and Muskogee’s Bianca McVay, the latter the girls top newcomer.
Whiteley, Kindred, Clayton, Shanks and Eubanks were all repeat selections.
The teams were voted on by the Phoenix staff and correspondents after nominations and rankings from area coaches.