High school basketball: Who's the best of the four-peaters?

Six boys basketball teams in state history have won four consecutive state championships, but which one is the best of the four-peaters? Here's a case for each.
by Ryan Aber and Scott Wright Published: March 16, 2013
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photo - Star Spencer players celebrate winning the Class 3A title on March 11, 1979. It was the team’s fourth straight championship.  PHOTO BY STEVE GOOCH, THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE
Star Spencer players celebrate winning the Class 3A title on March 11, 1979. It was the team’s fourth straight championship. PHOTO BY STEVE GOOCH, THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE

The Four-peaters' Club added a new member last week.

When Douglass won the Class 4A state championship on March 9, it became the sixth boys basketball team in state history to win four consecutive titles.

The list is impressive.

Star Spencer from 1976-79, teams that included guys like Leroy Combs and Snake Gressham, with the first two titles coming in the state's largest class, then 4A.

Millwood followed shortly after, winning its titles from 1978-81, seeing the end of Eddie Evans' high school coaching career, and the start of Varryl Franklin's.

The Tulsa Washington teams of 1984-87 had the likes of Melvin Gilliam, Arthur Thomas and Richard Dumas. All four titles were in 5A, the largest class in the state at the time.

Then a decade went by before another four-peater arose, first with the Bishop McGuinness teams of 1998-2001 that produced Terrance Crawford and Jonathan Bluitt.

Taylor and Blake Griffin, with father Tommy as their coach, guided OCS to titles in 2003-06.

And now the Stephen Clark-led Douglass Trojans have added their name to the list.

As long as games have been played, there have been debates about who was better. Young vs. Old. Past vs. Present.

Those debates will never end, and here's another one.

Which of the four-peaters had the best dynasty? The best team? The best player?

Here's a case for each of the four-peaters, so you can decide for yourself.

Douglass

Years of titles: 2010-13

Coaches: Terry Long (2010-12), Anthony Andrews (2013)

The stars: Stephen Clark has already cemented his place as one of the best scorers in state history, closing his career fifth all-time in points (3,312). He led the team in scoring all four championship years. But he had a lot of talent around him, especially in the first two seasons, with big man Marquis Buxton-Hill, twins Ramond and Romond Jenkins, and guards DeVonte Smith, Dorrian Williams and others.

The competition: Douglass didn't find much during the four-year run. The Trojans' only loss to an Oklahoma team came to Tulsa Washington in November 2011 at a tournament in Dallas. Early on, the rivalry with Star Spencer was strong, and the Trojans often went out of state to compete against the best opponents they could find.

Bumps in the road: Only four playoff games during the four-year stretch were decided by fewer than 10 points, and three of those came this year — Tulsa McLain in the area finals, Victory Christian in the state semifinals and Roland in the title game. The only other was in the first round in 2011, when Woodward's Seth Heckart barely missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and Douglass won 58-56. In all, the Trojans won their 12 state tournament games by an average of 21.5 points.

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“Those first two Douglass teams — the size, the speed, the athleticism — they had everything. And Stephen Clark is just a monster. It's amazing to me he wasn't a McDonald's All-American. He's truly a great guard. You literally have to pick him up at half-court.” — Star Spencer coach Patrick Cudjoe.

“The Douglass teams that won the first two championships, it would have been a struggle for our 1979 Star Spencer team to beat them. They were that tough, that talented. But I think we would have beat them,” — Former Star Spencer player and Northwest Classen coach Leroy Combs.

Oklahoma Christian

Years of titles: 2004-07

Coach: Tommy Griffin

The stars: Certainly L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin, who played in all four of the Saints' championships during the streak, is the biggest name. His older brother Taylor was a huge part of the first two championships, and the Saints had plenty of other firepower, including Joel Evans, Tucker and Tyler Phillips and George Overbey.

The competition: During its 12 state-tournament wins during the stretch, the Saints played 10 different opponents. The first two titles came in 3A with the second two in 2A. Either way, most of OCS' strong competition came from outside the class during the regular season. The 2004 team was undefeated and the 2006 team's lone loss came to Class 4A Northeast.

Bumps in the road: There weren't many. Only one of the Saints' 12 state tournament wins during the stretch came by less than 14 points — 2004's 55-50 title win over Riverside. In 2005, OCS lost to Sequoyah-Tahlequah in a December meeting but beat the Indians 51-34 in the title game behind a combined 31 points and 15 rebounds from the Griffin brothers.

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“Stephen Clark (of Douglass) and Blake Griffin are the only two guys I've coached against that you just didn't know how to defend them. There's really no answer for them. Blake, there's just nothing you could do with him at the high school level. You could try to double-team him, but that usually didn't work.” — Star Spencer coach Patrick Cudjoe

“Everybody showed up, they had to do what they needed to do and be unselfish about it. We didn't have any issues with guys accepting their roles. Whoever had the hot hand was going to get the ball and that wasn't me deciding that, it was the players being able to tell that. I told those guys to have the philosophy of pass first, shoot second and drive third and they really did that,” — OCS coach Tommy Griffin, who is now an assistant girls coach at Midwest City.

Bishop McGuinness

Years of titles: 1998-2001

Coaches: Garry Looper (1998-2000), Tondrell Durham (2000-01). The pair served as co-coaches in 2000 season.

The stars: The Irish were young from the start, with a freshman, a sophomore, two juniors and a senior in the starting lineup for the first title. For much of the run, McGuinness' inside game dominated with Junior Amous and Terrence Crawford as the primary cogs. The last run, though, was different, with J. Robert Merritt and Jonathan Bluitt helping the Irish to a thrilling fourth title.

The competition: Like many of the smaller-school teams on this list, most of the competition for the Irish came from larger-class teams. In 1998, though, McGuinness' path wasn't so easy. The Irish lost to Wagoner in the area finals, 67-61, before beating Sallisaw in the consolation finals to advance. In the 2001 season, McGuinness' only losses came to 6A opponents — Midwest City (twice), Putnam City and Norman.

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by Ryan Aber
Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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by Scott Wright
Reporter
A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and...
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