CUSHING – The playoffs are five games away. For Cushing’s varsity boys basketball team, that’s five games to sharpen newly formed spears – in-bound plays, half-court sets, whatever coach Jontue Ezell places before them.
For the girls, it’s crunch time. A big opportunity lies ahead. “January’s a long month in this game,” girls coach Brian Busby said Friday. “You wake up this morning and it’s February, and you kinda see the end of your regular season and the bright light of playoffs coming.” Busby’s Lady Tigers hammered Mannford 64-31 in Friday night’s homecoming contest, improving their ecord to 13-6 overall. Braelyn Berlowitz, homecoming queen and the most recent addition to Cushing’s 1,000 points club, led with 27 points.the 6-foot senior made two of three shots and two free throws, pulled down two rebounds, and stole the ball in the first 3 minutes of Friday night’s game. “She’s done that for four years,” Busby said, “she’s just a competitor.”
Busby kept the Tigers in a plodding zone offense, letting Berlowitz pull defenders to the baseline while his guards set their arrows loose from the 3-point line. Berlowitz got open frequently, but the Tigers thrived from deeper shots, too. They had 27 points on 3’s, with Lola Nanaeto (20 points) accounting for four of those shots. The lead came easily enough with Cushing jumping out 7-0, then 12-0, then 15-0 midway through the first quarter on another 3-pointer from Nanaeto. Mannford (8-12) couldn’t get pressure on Cushing’s guards, and it didn’t score until the final 2 minutes of the first quarter. “It allowed us to get in a rhythm,” Busby said. “It lets us get our feet set, lets us observe and pick ‘em apart a little it, and it doesn’t hurt to come out and shoot 3’s like we did. That’s a big turnaround compared to Tuesday night.” Cushing played for the last shot at the half, finishing the possession with the ball in Berlowitz’s hands. She came off a screen from the far-right wing to sink a right-side 3-pointer with 2 seconds left. The Lady Tigers led 34-16 at the break.
On Tuesday in Bristow, the girls won 28-21 in maybe the muddiest, most slow-going game of the season.
“Congrats on a great year for our JR High program. Our 8th grade taking the championship and 7th grade for taking 2nd place in their conference tourney. The future is bright for Cushing Tiger Basketball!!!” ~
Jontue Austin-Ezell is with Silas Guerrero.
Mannford 77, Cushing 58
The Tigers struggled to keep up with an unbeaten Mannford team that has risen to No. 4 in the Class 4A rankings. With only 4 minutes left in the first quarter, Cushing’s Caleb Tull hit a quick-release 3-pointer to draw the score to 7-6, Mannford’s lead.
It was a poor indicator of how this game would progress.
While the Tigers (6-10) played a tight defense that sunk well inside the 3-point line, Mannford flexed it’s rapid ball movement and passing abilities and scored from all over the place. A little scoring spree in the second quarter pleased the home crowd and showed flashes of Ezell’s hard work thus far.
Tyler Hurst scored an uncontested layup on a smartly done in-bound play from the baseline and the Tigers scored off a turnover on the next Mannford possession to draw the score to 30-17 with 4:08 left in the period, but a foul on the other end killed momentum.
The Pirates (20-0) kept the lead around 15 for the rest of the half and didn’t give up that ground.
Cushing will host Perkins-Tryon on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The girls game begins at 6:30 p.m. The Lady Tigers last played fourth-ranked Perkins-Tryon (19-1) Jan. 14 and lost 33-31.
Cleveland, Sperry and Berryhill are the three final regular-season opponents.