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by Berry Tramel Published: March 7, 2010
The Caddo County town of Cyril deserved to have something good happen.

And something good did. This band of homegrown basketball players.

"This group of girls has meant more to the town than I can imagine,” said Delbert Jump, who has lived in Cyril for most of his 84 years.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Cyril did not win the gold ball. Sports are not penned by screenwriters. Boynton beat Cyril 54-48 to win the Class B state championship Saturday at State Fair Arena.

Boynton was due some good news, too. The Muskogee County school faces closure. Saturday might have been its final public assembly.

But for hard times, it’s hard to beat Cyril. The last quarter century, most of the news coming out of the 1,000-person hamlet 14 miles south of Anadarko has been bleak.

The refinery, which brought Cyril to life in the 1920s, closed in 1984, ending most of Cyril’s jobs, and the town survived because who could afford to move with property values gone? Cyril’s municipal water well was polluted by saltwater in 1989. The nursing home closed in 2003 due to financial difficulties and care deficiencies. And in 2008, a fire gutted two town landmarks, Cyril Food Store and Scoggins Home Furnishings, Main Street fixtures for more than 50 years.

"But that’s what it’s all about in small towns,” said principal Jason James, who grew up in Cyril. "Picking yourself up off the ground and go again.”

Four years ago, coach Jeff Fletcher showed up and found some talented ballplayers. Cassidy Boggs and a group of girls a year younger. Shelbie Laughlin. Twins Emily and Brooke Horn. Shelbi Skaggs. Chelsea Reynolds.

Basketball became a passion in Cyril.

"Small towns, especially when times are tough, people can rally around” basketball, James said. "Take pride in it and just be happy.”

Said Fletcher, "It’s amazing. We don’t have anything for entertainment. No bowling alleys, no movie theaters. Small towns are about athletics. Gives the town something to rally around.

"Go to the coffee shop in July, and they might be talking a little politics, but they’ll be talking basketball.”

Cyril made it to the Class B state finals last March, then returned Saturday after another fabulous season.

"Days like this, we forget about the economy and come support our girls,” 20-year Cyril superintendent Jim Conger said a few minutes before tipoff.

Conger is retiring and wanted to go out by handing out the gold-ball trophy, a white whale he’d been chasing for 40 years.

Conger played on Navajo’s 1971 state semifinal team.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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