By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — When the Moore Lions took the court Saturday, they thought their biggest strength would be their quickness and tenacity. However, after two hours of facing Redemption Christian Home School Academy in the championship of the 38th Annual John Nobles Basketball Tournament, it was their composure that stood head and shoulders above the rest.
The Lions defeated the Pride 73-61 to win the tourney title in a game that saw 10 technical fouls called and two ejections. The bulk belonging to RCHA.
“I saw discipline,” Moore coach Aaron Howell said. “I saw character. And I saw us go home with the championship.”
Moore held a 68-59 advantage with 1:51 left in the game. The Pride’s Khadeem Lattin was fouled and went to the line with a chance to cut into the lead. He missed his attempt and Moore got the ball back.
As time began to run out on the game, Pride guard Bijan Johnson was ejected form the game by the referee after using profanity. The ensuing technical put the Lions up by 10. RCHA was never able to respond.
Moore’s Brayden Powell put an exclamation point on the game when he drove past Lattin for a powerful dunk. Lattin came back and got his own dunk, but it was too late. Lattin threw an elbow, according to the refs, and was handed his second technical. He was ejected from the game as Moore fans screamed down angry words at him.
It didn’t matter because the Lions were in control and cruised to victory over the final minute.
“We just didn’t handle ourselves with composure,” Pride coach Ed Chung said. “We know better. They’re coached to do a lot differently than that. More often than not we’re in difficult circumstances. We play in hostile environments. But we certainly didn’t help ourselves any. But it’s part of the growing process.”
Moore’s Brayden Powell had a game high 20 points. Jaylon Wilson scored 14 points and was named the tournament MVP. Justin Beam added 13 points in the win.
Patrick Hawkins paced the Pride with 17 points. Justin Smith added 12. Lattin, who has signed to play at the University of Oklahoma, was held to 10 points.
“The game definitely could have turned out a different way. I really wish we didn’t play at Moore,” Lattin said. “We played hard. We could have played way smarter, made better decisions and took the game out of the refs’ hands.”
The Pride grabbed the early first quarter lead as Lattin was able to knock down a couple of quick jumpers in the paint. But it was the RCHA guards ability to hit 3-pointers and drive to the rim that put them up 19-13 after one period.
The game got testy as the refs began to asses technical fouls and intentional fouls. That included three on the Pride.
But the Lions were able to keep their composure the most and went into halftime leading 34-33 at halftime.
“I was telling my team to stay disciplined,” Howell said. “We don’t act like that. We have more character than that. I apologize to the Moore community for that game. I am glad my boys kept their character. All the blame will fall on someone else. Not us. I’m very proud of my boys. I am proud of their character. And I am proud they are the Moore champions.”