Del City ‘stayed tough,’ shut down rival for title
NORMAN — Lenny Hatchett offered up a challenge to his team.
Two years ago, the Del City boys basketball coach directed a group that won a state championship while allowing just 44.5 points per game during the entire postseason.
Hold the 2023 field to less than that, Hatchett declared, and the Eagles could be state champions.
“For us to have these two back-to-back nights to hold teams to 35 points, I think we did our job,” a jubilant Hatchett said after the Eagles defeated Mid-Del district rival Carl Albert in overtime, 37-35, to win the Class 5A state championship Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.
In Friday’s state semifinal, Del City avenged last season’s state championship game loss to Tulsa Memorial by holding the Chargers to 35 points in a blowout victory. One night later, the Eagles equaled the feat against Carl Albert despite the addition of a four-minute overtime period.
Defense. It’s an old saying, but true. Defense won this championship.
“We have got a bunch of resilient kids that really stepped in and did some really special things defensively,” Hatchett said.
Six-foot-nine Oklahoma State signee Brandon Garrison — a McDonald’s AllAmerican honoree — was an absolute force in the paint on the defensive end. The senior power forward grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and continually altered Carl Albert’s shots without committing costly fouls.
“Just not letting them get into my body,” Garrison said. “Timing the block well and getting a block.”
Points were at a premium throughout the game — both teams converted less than 33% of their shot attempts — but Carl Albert got a little breathing room by scoring 11 of the first 13 points of the third quarter for a 28-18 advantage, capped by a rebound and put-back from junior guard Quincy Hopkins.
Hatchett called a timeout and sensed his team was beginning to panic.
“The biggest thing was I thought we had to get rebounds and push the ball before they got set up with their defense,”
Hatchett said. “Our guys, they stayed tough. That is something that Del Citybrand basketball has been doing for a while now.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, Del City responded with a 15-3 burst of its own to briefly claim a 33-31 lead. Carl Albert’s Jordan England tied the game at 33-33 with a pair of free throws, but neither team scored again over the final two-plus minutes of regulation.
“We knew we had more time,” Hatchett said. “And as long as we had more time, we knew we had a chance.”
Garrison set the tone in the overtime period by racing downcourt and blocking the shot of a streaking England. After both teams exchanged buckets, Garrison broke the 35-35 tie and gave the Eagles the lead for good with a basket off an assist from senior guard Demarious Vealy with 33 seconds left in overtime.
“I knew they were going to help over and I just saw it in his eyes that he was going to dish it off to me,” said Garrison, who led the Eagles with 17 points.
Carl Albert (23-6) got two more shot attempts off in the final half-minute of overtime, but neither fell. England led the Titans with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Hopkins added five points and six rebounds.
The state championship is the third for the Del City boys basketball program. The Eagles won the aforementioned 6A title two years ago and a 5A crown in 1980.
Garrison and the rest of the Del City senior class depart as two-time state champions.