CUSHING – On the opening night of the Class 4A varsity basketball playoffs, Cushing’s girls had the challenge of hosting the state’s second-ranked team. Classen School of Advanced Studies (SAS), nicknamed the Comets, came into Cushing’s gymnasium with a 24-1 record and a monthlong undefeated streak. A nifty layup, a steal, and six more easy points prompted Cushing coach Brian Busby to burn his first timeout 2 minutes after the tipoff with his team suddenly trailing 8-2. “There should have been five or six timeouts in that first quarter,” Busby said. “I was just trying to settle us down, get us focused on what we wanted to accomplish.” Cushing came out of that early timeout looking for a patient approach. It didn’t come naturally. A minute later, Classen’s Morgan Kennedy hit a 3-pointer from the right side, and Jordan Harris quickly stole the next pass to glide in for a layup, stretching the lead to 13-2. The Comets cruised to a 59-28 victory to advance to the winner’s bracket of the regional tournament in Kingfisher. “It’s a game of runs, we know that,” Cushing senior Braelyn Berlowitz said. “They got on a roll and we were trying to get a steal, slow them down. We struggled.” Berlowitz finished with 7 points to lead the Lady Tigers along with Lola Nanaeto on a night when the pace never slowed enough for Cushing to get comfortable. Rose Others scored five, Ariya Reginier had four, and three others combined for the few remaining points.
Classen prompted Busby’s second timeout on a 3-pointer with 3 minutes left in the second quarter, his team already down 22. “They scored a majority of their points on turnovers, that’s what we wanted to avoid,” Busby said. “It didn’t work out very well. They’re a good team, they take you out of what you want to do.” Classen (25-1) was potent on defense, too. The Comets denied Cushing (16-8) from scoring beneath the basket, harassing passers near the halfcourt line and forcing them to make hasty decisions. “First, we had to get below the free throw line with the basketball,” Busby said. “I thought we had some opportunities for one-on-one in the post, but you can pass the ball in there from 40 feet away.”
For years, this Cushing girls basketball program has been known for its defense. The girls on this team are aware of that tradition, and they anticipate a quick recovery from Friday’s loss. “We always rely on our defense,” Berlowitz said. “Coach told us in the locker room after the game that every time we’ve lost this season, we’ve come back to win three in a row.” Win three in a row, and the Lady Tigers will advance to Area. They advance to regionals despite the loss. They will play at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Kingfisher against the loser of Friday’s Kingfisher vs. Harding Charter game.
Classen 58, Cushing 47
Ben Patrick hit a 4-pointer on a half-court shot designed to drain the clock and give Classen the final shot of the first half. It was a deep one, and it gave the Comets (12-13) a nine-point lead. It was all Classen from there as Cushing (10-13) made second-half runs but couldn’t cut the deficit within double digits, losing 58-47 in the Friday nightcap. The girls and boys teams will advance to the Kingfisher regional as district runners-up, where the bracket becomes single-game elimination.
Regular season finale
On Tuesday, Cushing’s girls traveled to Berryhill for their third-straight win. They won 42-36. The boys lost 58-54 with yet another thrilling fourth quarter. This time, though, the last-second heroics that lifted them against Cleveland were missing in a tight finish. The game put the 10-12 cap on a regular season that saw the Tigers grow more resilient each week.