El Reno advances to states on 3-pointer at buzzer
Diante Palmer made a spontaneous decision.
The El Reno boys basketball team had a plan for the final seconds of the game: give the ball to Carter RomanNose. But when Palmer stood at the top of the key, he didn’t see the sophomore guard nearby.
Instead, he quickly let go of the ball, launching it toward the hoop. It bounced off the backboard, swished through the net and created celebratory pandemonium as his teammates swarmed him.
Palmer’s buzzer-beater 3-pointer sealed a 47-46 win against Piedmont in a Saturday night win-or-go-home area matchup, sending Class 5A West thirdranked El Reno into the state tournament.
When the ball left Palmer’s hands, he wasn’t sure what would happen.
“It felt good, but it was kind of flat,” the senior guard said. “So I was like, ‘I pray this goes in.’”
As soon as Palmer emerged from the locker room, he was greeted with embraces and congratulatory words, and he couldn’t stop grinning.
Fifth-ranked Piedmont was raining 3-pointers throughout the second half, but he hit the one that mattered most.
At first, Colton Sydnes looked like the hero. The Piedmont senior drained a 3 in the final minute to put his team up, 4544. Although El Reno (18-7) had headed into halftime with a 21-15 lead, the Wildcats (16-11) were storming back.
With 6.4 seconds left, Jeremiah Weay stepped up to the free-throw line. He made one, but after a miss, Palmer grabbed the rebound, setting up his winning shot. He led El Reno with 18 points, and James Reveles followed with 12.
Palmer, who grew up in El Reno but spent most of his high school career at Mount St. Mary, is thrilled to return to the state tournament.
“It’s my third time going to state, and it’s time to prove something,” Palmer said. “Show them that El Reno is bigger than what people see it as.”
Southeast 57, Mount St. Mary 53
Micheal Graham Jr. bounced the basketball three times before swishing it through the net.
His second free-throw attempt landed, too, pinballing around the rim before dropping through the hoop. Fourthranked Southeast defeated sixthranked Mount St. Mary, 57-53, on Saturday night to reach the Class 5A state tournament, and Graham’s free throws made a major difference.
The junior guard led the Spartans with 21 points, including seven free throws in the fourth quarter.
“(I) just zoned everything out,” Graham said. “Pretended like it’s practice, working on free throws every day.”
While Micheal Graham was Southeast’s top scorer, Mishaun Graham followed with nine points. Southeast (16-7) led 26-22 at halftime, but junior star Braeden Lloyd had a big second half for Mount St. Mary (19-6), keeping the Spartans on their toes.
“It’s hard to guard a guy like that, (who) likes to do a lot,” Southeast coach Walter Brewer said. “And so our thing was just to play heads up and try to make him feel uncomfortable.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Lloyd made a contested basket that trimmed Southeast’s lead to 52-51, but the Spartans continued to have an advantage with Graham’s leadership at the freethrow line.
“He steps up,” Brewer said, “and if the ball is in his hands, something good is gonna happen.”
❚ Class 6A Putnam North’s season ended with a win-or-go-home area game. Just one day after recording its first loss of the season, Broken Arrow defeated the Panthers, 68-52.
❚ The Class 6A Choctaw boys basketball team is in the state tournament for the first time since 1967. The Yellowjackets squeezed past Westmoore, 49-48.