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Class 3A boys: Centennial tops Verdigris, advances to third title game in four years

by Jacob Unruh Modified: March 14, 2014 at 7:00 pm •  Published: March 14, 2014

Centennial senior Austin Garner’s smartphone screen is cracked, but he can still see the picture in the background.

He calls it his house, but it’s also known to many as The Big House.

Garner, who scored 17 points, has made four trips to State Fair Arena with Centennial and is now looking for his third title in that span following a 62-51 victory over Verdigris in Friday’s Class 3A semifinals.

“That’s my house and where I want to be back at,” Garner said about the picture taken his freshman year. “I just want to go prove everybody wrong, let us know us three seniors can get us back to the state finals again.”

The Bison, ranked No. 2, faces No. 1 Okemah at 12:15 p.m. Saturday searching for its first title under coach Garrette Mantle.

“It can go either way,” Garner said. “Whoever rebounds is going to win.”

Garner knows all too well about rebounding. During last season’s semifinals he watched helplessly from the bench with an injury as Millwood knocked off Centennial with a late tip-in.

That moment served as motivation for the 6-foot-7 Garner.

“We just fought back and grinded through the season, so here we are,” he said. “I was hurting I couldn’t rebound it. I was going to give my all the following year, which was this year, to get back to the state finals.”

On Friday, Centennial (26-2) was able to slow down the Cardinals’ 3-point shooting and made timely shots.

Each time Verdigris made a push, the Bison answered. They took the lead with a 3-pointer from Garner late in the first quarter and never looked back.

“That’s just what we talked about in the scouting report,” Mantle said. “They put four guys out on the perimeter who can make shots deep. We did a good job in that area and we knew we had to defend the 3. Us making our shots makes our defense better.”

Alongside Garner, Malcolm Mitchell Jr. and Cory Morgan scored 10 points apiece.

Verdigris, which ended the season 25-5, was by Tyler Monroe’s 17 points. Cade Upshaw finished with 12.

Centennial, which won titles in 2011 and 2012, now looks to continue playing better after having to rally from a late six-point deficit Thursday against Atoka just to keep its season alive.

“We shot the ball a lot better than we did against Atoka,” Mantle said. “When you make shots like that, it makes you look better. I thought our defense and our strategy on how you defend them was really good.”

by Jacob Unruh
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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