Wildcats are one win away from state after outlasting No. 19 Mangum
The Cashion Wildcats are only one win away from playing in the State Tournament. The No. 2 Wildcats roared back from an eight-point deficit with five minutes left in the game to outlast No. 19 Mangum 63-61 to win the Class 2A Area 4 Regional Championship Saturday night.
On a night that was filled with big plays, there were six that were pivotal in the Wildcats securing the come-from-behind victory. First, there was Alex Nabavi’s three-point shot with 2:30 to go in the game to pull Cashion within one point, 58-57. The shot couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wildcats. It was only Cashion’s second made three of the game--their lowest amount of the entire season.
Then with 1:26 to play, Jonah Jenkins picked up a charge call on Mangum’s Trey Dickie, fouling him out of the game, leaving Mangum without one of its best offensive weapons. Dickie finished the game with 19 points. On the ensuing possession, Jenkins dribbled past Dickie’s replacement on the right side of the court, going coast-to-coast for a layup putting Cashion ahead 61-60 with 1:18 to go. It was Cashion’s first lead since the second quarter.
After Mangum tied the game by knocking down one free throw on the ensuing possession, the Wildcats looked ready to hold the ball for the final shot of the game. That’s when the biggest play of the game happened.
With 47 seconds to go, Cashion turned the ball over. Mangum gained control and looked to capitalize on a three-on-zero fast break. Sophomore Austin Frazier darted down the floor, causing a missed layup allowing Vance Raney to secure the rebound. Jenkins would get fouled on the other end, allowing Cashion to take a one-point lead with 33 seconds to go.
The final big play happened on Mangum’s next possession. With 18 seconds to go, Jacob Woody picked up a charge, giving the ball back to the Wildcats to put the game away.
“People always tend to think of defining plays as offensive plays, but tonight our defense came up with defining plays,” Cashion Head Coach John Hardaway said. “Austin was able to hustle down that fast break and force a missed shot and then Jacob got the big charge at the end. Without those two plays, we don’t win the game.”
After getting outscored in the first three quarters, Cashion’s defense held Mangum to only 11 points in the fourth quarter. On a night where the Wildcats usual barrage of outside shooting couldn’t find the bottom of the net, the defense stepped up and paved the way for another big win.
“It was such a great game,” Hardaway said. “We knew heading into it that it would be a tremendous challenge for us. It was a back and forth game the whole time. Mangum is a great team. They are severely underranked. They are as good of a team that we have seen all year long. Some things didn’t go our way but we still found a way to win.”
Despite the three-ball failing to drop, the Wildcats still got superb games from Jenkins and Woody. Jenkins finished with a game-high 25 points; Woody right behind him with 22. After the game, Hardaway went out of his way to praise the play of his sophomore point guard.
“Jonah was out of his mind tonight,” Hardaway said. “Mangum tried to press us and get in our shorts, but Jonah is so savvy and calm with the ball. He handled tonight as good as anyone possibly could have.”
With the win, Cashion will have two opportunities this weekend to punch its ticket to the State Tournament. The Wildcats are hoping to lock it up Friday night when they travel to Weatherford to play No. 6 Minco at SWOSU.
“Beating Mangum was huge because now we get two chances to win one game,” Hardaway said. “That extra game is there Saturday, but we don’t want to be in that game. We’ll have to beat a great Minco team to avoid it. Minco is the one team that is almost identical to us. We know them and they know us. We scrimmage them a lot and they do a lot of things well. We’ll have to play well to beat them.”
Back in January, when interviewing Jenkins about teams he would possibly want to play this season. He didn’t hesitate with his answer.
He’ll get his wish. Cashion will square off with Minco on Friday. Tipoff is set for 8 pm.