TULSA — At pregame shootaround on Friday morning, McGuinness coach Tondrell Durham told his 6-foot-8 forward Will Lienhard he needed to make his mark.
Lienhard responded with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots to send the top-ranked Irish (24-5) to their third straight Class 5A title game with a 47-36 win over Tulsa Kelley Friday at the Mabee Center.
“It was good to see him be aggressive,” Durham said. “Even if he doesn’t make the bucket, when he’s aggressive, the defense drops down on him, and he’s a good enough passer out of the post to get it to one of the guards for a good shot.”
Lienhard went to work at crucial times, including five straight points when Kelley was threatening to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
“Coach told me if we were gonna get this win, I needed to step up and do what he’s been trying to tell me to do all season, just attack the basket and be aggressive,” Lienhard said.
Matt Craig had 12 points and Daniel Smith had 10 for Tulsa Kelley, which concluded its season at 20-9.
Down the stretch, Stephen Amalong and Brian Canfield were nearly perfect at the free throw line to cap the Irish victory and set up a rematch with defending champion and second-ranked Tulsa Memorial at 6 p.m. Saturday. Amalong had 11 points and Canfield had nine.
McGuinness, the 2012 Class 5A champion, faced Memorial at the Tournament of Champions in December, winning 45-43. But Durham knows that game doesn’t matter now.
“That was then, this is now,” he said. “We’re becoming a little bit of a rivalry up here. Memorial is good. They’ve got bigs, they’ve got guards. I’m looking forward to a good game.
“If we play up to that level, I think the fans are gonna get a good 5A state championship game.”