Annual basketball event has seen lots of talented athletes compete since 2004 rebirth

By LARRY OWEN

Times Sports Editor

 

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Okmulgee County Basketball Tournament will celebrate its 15th year of competition next week with its annual week-long event.

The annual county basketball tournament is not something that has just been around for the last 15 years. The county tournament actually took place in the 1970s and 1980s before administrators decided to do away with the event.

In 2003, administrators from the eight schools in Okmulgee County - Okmulgee, Beggs, Preston, Morris, Henryetta, Dewar, Wilson, and Schulter - decided to bring back the county tournament. The concept for the tournament saw all eight schools converge on one basketball court in the county and battle for bragging rights in Okmulgee County for 12 months.

It was decided that the week-long tournament would take place in Okmulgee, which is the centrally located town in the county.

The first county tournament, however, had to be relocated to the Don Shoemake Sports Complex in Morris, as historic Brock Memorial Gymnasium in Okmulgee was undergoing some minor renovations at the time of the tournament.

The re-existence of the county tournament featured only six of the eight county schools, as Beggs and Schulter did not participate due to reaching their allotment of tournament participation in the 2003-2004 season. Okemah took one of the vacant spots in both divisions and it was determined that whichever team earned the top seeds in the tournament would be awarded a bye in the first round and automatically advanced to the winner's bracket semifinals.

With the brackets drawn up, the Okmulgee County Tournament made its official return January 19, 2004.

The first contest of the week-long tournament featured the Okmulgee Lady Bulldogs taking on the Okemah Lady Panthers. The Lady Bulldogs recorded the first win of the tournament, defeating the Lady Panthers by a 57-31 margin.

On Saturday, January 23, 2004, the first tournament championships were handed out. The girls championship went to the Preston Lady Pirates, who defeated the Okmulgee Lady Bulldogs 64-52 in the title game. The first county team to earn bragging rights in the boys bracket was the Okmulgee Bulldogs, who earned a 73-63 win over the Morris Eagles in the boys championship game.

The 2005 county tournament saw all eight schools compete on the boys side, while Preston and Beggs girls did not participate due to being slated to compete in other tournaments that season. Lakewood served as one of the replacements on the girls side, while the top seed in the girls tournament - the Okmulgee Lady Bulldogs - earned a first-round bye.

In 2006, the week-long event became an official 'county' tournament, as all eight schools were represented.

Preston holds the record for the most team championships in the first 14 years with seven apiece. The Lady Pirates have won tournament titles in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014, and 2015. The Pirates' seven tournament championship have come in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The other girls champions at the Okmulgee County Tournament have been:

• Okmulgee - 2005

• Henryetta - 2010

• Dewar - 2011, 2012

• Beggs - 2013, 2016, 2017

Besides their championship in 2004, the Okmulgee Bulldogs have also captured the tournament championship in 2007 and 2017.

The other county teams to win the county tournament on the boys side in the last 14 years are:

• Morris - 2006

• Beggs - 2009

• Henryetta - 2012, 2013

In the first 14 years since the county tournament returned, there have been a grand total of 31,960 points scored in a total of 302 games. The 2012 tournament holds the record for the most points scored at 2,521.

Four county athletes have scored more than 40 points in a game on the boys side.

Preston's Eric Cazenave was the first player to reach the 40-point plateau with his 41-point performance in 2004 in the first round against Henryetta.

The following year, Wilson's Casey Donathan matched Cazenave's total by putting up 41 against Cazenave and the Pirates in the opening round. Donathan may have had the most points in a game by an individual in the 2005 tournament, but Cazenave and the Pirates took home their first tournament championship by dethroning Okmulgee with a 54-50 victory in the title game.

Donathan and Cazenave's record stood until 2012 when Wilson's Tony Simmons set the new tournament record with a 42-point performance in the semifinals against Preston. Despite the record-breaking performance, Simmons and the Tigers dropped the semifinal contest to the Pirates by a 78-67 decision.

Two years ago, Preston's C.J. Cochran added his name to the county tournament record books, scoring 42 points in the Pirates' opening-round win over Schulter.

Simmons nearly made it two-straight years with a 40-point performance in 2011 when the Wilson standout put up a tournament-best 39 points in the Tigers' 74-72 win over Dewar in the consolation semifinals.

The most points scored by an individual player on the girls side at the county tournament was 38 by Preston standout Chelsea Dungee in the 2014 semifinals against Dewar, which the Lady Pirates won by a 90-45 margin. Dungee then put up 33 points in the 2014 finals against Morris - an 84-38 win for the Preston ladies.

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County Tournament Notes

First point scored: Amber Sands, Okemah (first round vs Okmulgee)

First basket: Whitney Montgomery, Okmulgee (first round vs Okemah)

First team to win: Okmulgee Lady Bulldogs (57-31 over Okemah; 1st round)

First girls team champion: Preston Lady Pirates (64-52 over Okmulgee)

First boys team champion: Okmulgee Bulldogs (73-63 over Morris)

Most girls team championships: Preston (7)

Most boys team championships: Preston (7)

Most consecutive girls championships: Preston (2006-2009)

Most consecutive boys championships: Preston (2014-2016)

Most total points scored: 2521 (2012)

Most points scored by girls team in a game: 94 (2008 - Preston; first round vs Schulter)

Most points scored by boys team in a game: 104 (2012 - Preston; first round vs Schulter)

Fewest points scored by girls team in a game: 3 (2017 - Schulter; first round vs Beggs)

Fewest points scored by boys team in a game: 12 (2015 - Schulter; consolation semifinals vs Dewar)

Most total points scored by girls team: 2480 (Preston)

Most total points scored by boys team: 2877 (Preston)

Most points scored in a game (boys): 42 (Tony Simmons (Wilson) - 2012; C.J. Cochran (Preston) - 2016)

Most points scored in a game (girls): 38 (Chelsea Dungee (Preston) - 2014)

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