OKLAHOMA CITY — Finally, Boynton can celebrate.
Both Jerry Belton and the Cardinals went out the way they had planned Saturday at State Fair Arena.
Boynton recorded its third straight blowout on its way to a third straight Class B state title with a 74-56 pounding of Hammon in Belton’s last name as coach of the small-school powerhouse.
All throughout the playoff Boynton never celebrated. The Cardinals were on as senior James Harrison put it, a “business trip.”
And all the hard work paid off for the Cardinals, who won their sixth title overall.
Boynton took care of business early against Hammon, a contrast from the last two games, when the Cardinals exploded in the second half to post easy wins.
Boynton scored 22 points in the first quarter and never looked back, taking a 37-25 lead into halftime.
“I told the kids before the game, we can’t let a team like Hammon get you down,” Belton said. “Because it’s hard to recover.”
And leading the way early was Belton’s son, Jermaine.
Jermaine Belton was on fire out of the game, scoring 14 points in the first quarter and all but one of the Cardinals’ points in the second. He finished with 28 first-half points.
“I didn’t want to start out slow,” Jermaine Belton said. “I started taking it to the hole and hope my jumper would fall right off the bat. I love the Big House (the nickname for the State Fair Arena).”
Bolton finished with 44 points for the second straight game, missing the state tournament record of 48 points.
And he likes would have had it, if he didn’t get into foul trouble in the third quarter. Jermaine Belton picked up his fourth foul just 2:37 into the second half. He sat out the last 4:49 of the third quarter.
“If he doesn’t get in foul trouble, he breaks it,” Jerry Belton said.
“Said Jermaine: “I didn’t want to come out.”
Boynton led by 14 (43-29) when Jermaine Belton came out of the game. But seniors Jason Harrison and James Smith picked up the slack.
The pair combined on an 11-2 run to put the Cardinals up 52-31 on a three-pointer by Smith.
“We knew we had to take over when Belton was on the bench,” Smith said. “Somebody else had to step up. I love it. I’m energized.”
Harrison finished with 12 points, all in the second half, including eight in the critical stretch.
“He’s been having good games all week,” Jermaine Belton said. “If I’m not on or when I’m not in there, we go to Jason. He’s a senior who’s been there for four years and he knows how to play in the state tournament.”
The Warriors were able to cut the Boynton lead to 59-48 with 3:40 left in the game, but couldn’t get any closer.
“I thought it would be a little tougher,” Boynton senior Michael Barnes said. “Coach told us to go out there and leave it all on the floor because it’s our last game, and we did. It feels good to win three in a row.”
Boynton made the three peat its lone goal after winning last year’s state tournament.
“Right now, it feels like another win,” Harrison said. “But in 15 years, I know it’ll mean something.”
Boynton was making its 24th overall trip to state and Saturday was the Cardinals’ 12th time in the finals. All six gold balls came under Jerry Belton’s tenure, which started in 1979.
“What else can I say,” Jerry Belton said. “If you go out, you want to be on top. I’m satisfied, no question.”