TULSA — R.J. Diggs’ teammates and coaches grabbed him before the fourth quarter began and gave him a directive.
“Be a senior,” they told him. “Be a leader. Take over the game.”
Diggs did just that, scoring 12 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead Tulsa Memorial to a 59-52 victory over Bishop McGuinness and the Chargers’ second consecutive Class 5A boys’ basketball state championship.
The Chargers beat the Irish 59-42 for last year’s state title, but McGuinness was a much tougher matchup this season.
McGuinness beat Tulsa Memorial the first time the team’s played this season. On Saturday, the lead changed 15 times and the teams were tied eight times.
“It got frustrating, but we know we still have to play,” Diggs said. “We have to play together, play hard and come out with the W. And we did it.”
McGuinness led 36-34 entering the fourth quarter, but after a couple more lead changes, Tulsa Memorial took control of the game for good with about 3:15 to play.
Junior A.J. Cockrell scored, drew a foul and sunk his free-throw attempt to give Memorial a 46-44 lead, then senior MikeQuan Deane stole the ball and scored on a fastbreak layup.
McGuinness senior Brian Canfield responded with a 3-point make — one of four successful 3-pointers Canfield hit Saturday — but Diggs quickly countered with his own trey, which fell through the net as he fell backward on the right wing.
“McGuinness played as hard as can be,” said Tulsa Memorial coach Bobby Allison. “They have a wonderful program. For some reason, we just got a few more loose balls and made a few more shots.”
Allison is in his first year leading the Chargers after taking over for former coach Eric Savage, who left for Sand Springs.
McGuinness junior Will Leinhard and Canfield each scored 19 points to lead the Irish, whose season ends at 24-6.
“I like to keep things in perspective,” said McGuinness coach Tondrell Durham. “A lot of people don’t put things in perspective. When you’re playing for a state championship, a lot of things have to fall into place the right way. Unfortunately, it didn’t fall the right way today. You’ve just gotta keep things in perspective and move forward.”