By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
CHOCTAW — Coach Aaron Howell had been using duct tape and barbed wire all season to keep his team together. From booting players off the team to injuries, there were times they looked like they wouldn’t make it out of the first round.
Despite that, the Lions found themselves playing for a trip to the state tournament Saturday when they faced No. 5 Mustang. For three quarters they fought and battled, but in the end, they just ran out of steam as they fell to the Broncos 61-49 in the area tournament.
“This year we needed everyone to step up and be a team,” Howell said. “Last year we had ungodly talent, ungodly ability. This year not so much. We trimmed all the fat. Got rid of everybody that didn’t want to be a part of the team and we’ve played together as a team.”
Moore’s chances to advance took a severe hit Friday night when leading scorer Jaylon Wilson went down with an injured knee. While they were able to survive getting past Norman, Mustang would be a different monster.
Without Wilson, the Lions turned to Braydon Powell. He not only posted up in the paint, but was a terror on the offensive boards. In the first period, he ravaged Broncos super sophomore Austin Meyer .
But Terrell Williams had his shot going from behind the arc as Mustang grabbed a 16-14 first quarter lead.
Mustang sprinted ahead by 10, but the defense of Cole Oliver and Eric Blankenship helped the Lions cut the deficit to 28-24 at halftime.
“My mentality was to hit the open guy and score whenever possible,” Powell said. “The guys knew I had a lot on my plate, and they tried to make it up themselves. We were short tonight, but we did what we could do.”
Blankenship continued to put in work in the third period. Whatever aspect of the game the Lions needed, he was able to provide. From scoring, to rebound to defense, the senior was all over the floor as Moore trailed 41-40 heading into fourth.
The Lions began the final eight minutes in a panic and quickly fell behind by eight points. Mustang’s defense had Moore on its heals.
But it was a Meyer dunk over the entire Lions’ front line that put an exclamation point on the night.
Demarion Love, Jakolby Long, Williams and Meyer combined for 54 of Mustang’s 61 points.
Diontre Cutliff led the Lions with 17 points. Oliver added 11. Powell finished his high school career with 9 points, but was a factor on both ends.
“It always feels good to be the last Moore team standing, “ Powell said. “Going from Southmoore to Moore, I felt it was a risk. But I felt like I had family here. That’s what showed out on the court. It feels great to go out with a bang and with family. But it also hurts at the same time.”
The Lions lose two starters from this year’s team. They will return Wilson and Cutliff along with several other key players in 2015.
“This is my favorite Moore team since I’ve been at Moore, period. Hands down,” Howell said. “They’ve fought, they’ve given their all. They sacrificed time, they sacrificed points. They’re the epitome of a team. No respect coming in, they fought all year. I’m proud.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com