I have to admit it. I had already visualized the story lead in my head. It would have been Preacher Purl’s pregame prayer from ‘Hoosiers’ — “And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen.”
Hoosiers, the movie based on the real-life story of the 1954 Milan High Schools’ Indiana state basketball championship that was culminated with a win in the finals over powerhouse Muncie Central when Bobby Plump’s 14-footer went through the net as the final buzzer sounded, was the story of the tiny school defeating the giants.
We came close to having our own version at the Tournament of Champions.
What this Forgan team did at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University, was beyond impressive. And if not for one five-minute stretch against Tulsa Union it could have been historic, even on a national scale.
Class 4A No.2 Vinita, Forgan’s first round opponent, led 8-0 to start the game, but was helpless against the Bulldogs as they ran off 16 straight. Forgan controlled the rest of the game without much trouble even though Vinita had a good shooting night and Forgan was without senior starter Tanner Jones, who was out with a shoulder injury.
Forgan’s second round opponent, Tulsa Union is the top-ranked team in 6A - Oklahoma’s largest division. Union is the second largest school in the state with over 4,200 students in ninth through twelfth grades. But when it comes to athletic facilities and resources no one in the state of Oklahoma and few in the nation come close to matching Tulsa Union.
Union doesn’t play their home basketball games in a gymnasium. They do not play them in a field house. They play them in the 5,662 seat John Q. Hammons Arena. Division 1 basketball conference, The Summit League, held their conference tournament at this facility from 2005-2008. Football games are played right next door, often in front of more than 13,000 fans. (We are posting some pictures of these facilities on our web version of this story).
Forgan, a school with 46 kids in high school, outscored Union by six points outside of a five-minute stretch. Even tiny Milan was three and a half times larger than Forgan.
Wrap your mind around that.
Even after impressive performances in the first two rounds Forgan was by no means considered the favorite as they took on the premiere private school in the state, Bishop McGuinness, for third place. McGuinness starts two players who have already committed to play Division 1 basketball at the University of San Francisco for former KU player Rex Walters.
They ground out a win against a very talented and well-coached team on a night where, offensively, they were not at their best for a good portion of the game.
I have been covering games in our panhandle area since these seniors were freshman, and surprised many by making it to the state tournament. I have seen my share of good boys’ high school basketball teams, including Texhoma’s state runner-up, Turpin’s state qualifying team of two years ago, and possibly Hooker’s current squad among others. They have all been a pleasure to cover, but I have never seen one like this.
I do not want to steal any attendance from any other schools, but if you are a fan of high school athletics or basketball in general, find a night that your team is not playing and Forgan is, and go watch them play. You will not regret it, and there are only about 20 chances left.