• Olney High School senior guard Brent McCorkle fights of Seymour's aggressive defenders.

Cubs face Muenster after Goldthwaite victory

Cubs take third in district

The Olney Cubs overcame a double-digit deficit to capture the Region II Bi-District Championship and will next face a team Olney coach Carl Pennington describes a likely state contender, if it can get past the Cubs.

The Cubs seemed outmatched early into their playoff opener against Goldthwaite, but pulled away late in the second half for a 58-50 victory and will next face Region II District 11 champion Muenster (27-6) at a neutral site in Henrietta.

Pennington said the top-seeded Muenster Hornets do not intimidate his team because facing top-ranked talent is nothing new for the Cubs, who has bested state contender Petrolia (26-6) 47-41 in Jan. 10 and nearly bested another state contender, Electra (25-4), three days later.

“We’re going to play our best game,” Pennington said. “... They’re a legit number one and have a legitimate shot at going to state in our region. With Petrolia and Electra in our region, our region is tough. Our district is tough. With Seymour winning, our district swept their district. Even though they are number one, and anything Muenster throws at us is nothing Electra hasn’t thrown at us. We’re fine with it.”

The Cubs earned their spot in the Friday’s playoff game after overcoming a 12-point deficit while facing a Goldthwaite team with featuring an offense eerily similar to that of Archer City, who bested the Cubs three times using pinpoint perimeter shooting.

With the Cubs having to play their way into the playoffs with a victory over Seymour last Friday and having to overcome a 12-point deficit. A jumper by Goldthwaite senior guard Christian Valencia capped off a long scoring run that would take a team effort to overcome. A 3-pointer by Olney senior guard Carson Fite seemed to reinvigorate the Cubs. Fellow senior guards Brent McCorkle and Andrew Bernhardt added to the effort with McCorkle sinking a hotly contested shot from close range while Bernhard closed the distance to 7 points on a buzzer-beating jumper for two. McCorkle would go on a tear in the second half sinking a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four, then another 3-pointer minutes later followed by a 2-point jumper to cut Goldthwaite’s lead to a point.

“We came out a little more aggressive,” McCorkle said, who would lead the Cubs in scoring with 17 points. “We were shooting the ball and their shots were not falling. We were playing better defense in the end. We took care of the ball better by making smarter passes and not turning the ball over. It’s a great feeling having complete confidence in your teammates.”

Another Fite 3-pointer locked the game at 30-30, then senior forward Eli Johnson gave the Cubs the leader after stealing the ball then taking it cross-court for an easy lay-in to put the Cubs ahead. While Johnson’s 8-point performance was a factor, his strongest contribution came under the boards with his team-leading 11 rebounds.

“When Eli’s mind is in the game, he’s tough to stop,” Pennington said. “He wanted it and when he, Travis (Hudson) and Parker (Mayers) rebound like that, we’re tough to beat.”

Goldthwaite would rally back, but another senior post, Hudson, briefly caught fire and added two close-range buckets on subsequent possessions to push the lead to 47-42. Goldthwaite pulled within four, but a foul on McCorkle put Olney in the double bonus. Free throws may have allowed the Cubs to pull away, but their strong post play prevented any potential of a comeback with the Cubs’ locking down any hope of a second-shot opportunity.

“We all stepped up after halftime,” Johnson said. “We had to rebound. We had to stop their second-shot opportunities. We faced a team just like Archer City. We had to step up and get some rebounds and we did.”

Cubs knock off Seymour for playoff birth

The Olney Cubs locked up a playoff spot and third place in the Region II District II following their 42-29 victory over Seymour.

The Cubs ended a potential three-day tournament a day early with last Friday’s win and secured a reservation to meet Goldthwaite in the opening round of the playoffs.

“We have been playing good defense, but we have to take care of the basketball,” Olney coach Carl Pennington said. “We made some mistakes that we shouldn’t have ... You have to give Seymour credit. They did not come to just give us the game. They made us work for it. We’re just happy to be in the playoffs.”

During an interview before the game, Olney senior guard Brent McCorkle said ball control was the key to beating Seymour was maintaining ball control. The Panthers’ aggressive defense made that a challenge, but that aggression came with a cost as Seymour put Olney in the bonus early in the second quarter. Cubs’ posts Parker Mayers and Eli Johnson crashed the boards for a bucket each, which set up senior guards Carson Fite and Andrew Bernhardt on the perimeter, who added seven to the scoreboard on Bernhardt’s 3-pointer and Fite’s 2-point jumper that capped off the first quarter.

“We’ve played them twice before and the first time they were really [aggressive],” Fite said. “The second time, we were in our gym and they could not do that as much, but this time they wanted to pressure us. They did not have to win this game, but they wanted us to know we had to work for it. We knew what we were getting into and how to deal with the swiping and the attacks.”

 McCorkle took advantage of Seymour’s grabby guards by adding five free throws, but he would fall victims to fouls after giving up his second foul early in the second quarter, which gave guard to sophomore Jalen Terry. Despite seeing limited action this season and making his first postseason appearance, Terry’s jumper from the corner of the paint and his layup off a steal was just what the Cubs needed as they headed into halftime ahead 20-16. 

While the strong play of the Cubs’ guards may have drove the Olney fans into a frenzy, the strong play of its posts made the difference on defense. Mayers’ eight rebounds more than double his peers and also prevented Seymour’s second-shot opportunities, which Pennington said allowed the Cubs to distance themselves in the second half.

“We were getting second-shot rebounds,” Pennington said. “In the first half, we gave up 10 offensive rebounds and in a low scoring game you can’t do that. It was killing us and in the second half we cut that down, then we started running our offense. We hit some timely shots and that gave us some distance.”

A few of those timely shots came from Fite, who picked up eight of his team-leading 12 points in the third quarter on two 3-pointers and a shot at close range. Once the Cubs took their lead into double digits, they reverted to their motion offense to bleed the clock and pulled their starters midway through the fourth quarter. Last Friday’s victory not only gave the Cubs third place in the district and a playoff spot, but it also eliminated Archer City from playoff contention. The Cubs greatly benefited from a coin toss last Wednesday, which gave them a bye in the first round of the district tournament. That allowed them to avoid Archer City, who had bested the Cubs on each of their three encounters this season but will now have to watch the playoffs from the stands. 

The Cubs’ luck on the coin toss did not extend into the playoffs, which Pennington said their upcoming opponent intends to take full advantage.

“I haven’t seen [Goldthwaite] at all, which is why they want to play us on Monday,” Pennington said. “We lost the flip. We were unlucky and it happens. We just have to play our game. We’re trying to get tape now ... We’re just trying to find out who their best players are and what they do, but it really doesn’t matter because the playoffs is all about what you do better.”

The Cubs will travel to Eastland High School to face Goldthwaite on a neutral site. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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