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Class 3A boys: Centennial does a lot with little fan support in loss to Okemah

On a day when high school basketball champions were crowned in our state’s five biggest classifications, fans came in droves from far and wide to root, root, root for their home team. But for Centennial, which lost a 54-53 thriller in double overtime to Okemah, there were no droves.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 15, 2014

Carry your notebook or wield your tape recorder at a game, and you’re not supposed to cheer for one side over the other. Can’t wear your fan hat while wearing your journalist hat.

I broke that rule Saturday.

I was pulling hard for the Centennial boys.

On a day when high school basketball champions were crowned in our state’s five biggest classifications, fans from far and wide flocked to the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City and the Mabee Center in Tulsa to root, root, root for their home team. They wore matching shirts. They painted their faces. They supported their teams in droves.

But for Centennial, which lost a 54-53 thriller in double overtime to Okemah, there were no droves. Centennial had roughly 200 fans. Okemah had a couple thousand.

Unfortunately, that kind of discrepancy was nothing new for Centennial.

“We know that every playoff game we play is going to be a road contest,” Centennial coach Garrette Mantle said. “We’re not going to bring the crowds.”

Part of it is because Centennial is still in its infancy. The school has only been open since 2006, so it has few alumni who would be drawn to a state championship game. And with limited success in sports other than boys basketball, which has been to state four times and won the title twice, the school hasn’t built a consistent following.

Another factor is Centennial’s students. Nearly 100 percent of them receive free or reduced lunches. That means their finances are tight, so the cost of driving to State Fair Arena and paying to attend a game is a stretch for most of them.

Compounding issues even more this week is spring break. No student bus. No pep club. No cheerleaders even. And those who know say that Centennial has a really good cheer group.

Too bad they weren’t there Saturday.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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