Jenks boys ready to turn corner after tournament championship
Going into the annual Jenks/Union Invitational, the 2020-2021 season for the Jenks High School boys basketball team has been a rollercoaster ride.
From dealing with a head coach who had a tough battle with COVID-19 and was even hospitalized for a short period of time, to that same head coach having to miss several games due to being a head referee in the National Football League, to players and assistant coaches having to quarantine, to losing several games they felt should win, the road has not been a smooth one for the Trojan boys.
However, after winning three games in three days against top-level competition and capturing the Jenks/Union Invitational championship, this Jenks team feels like it has turned a corner and is ready to make a run down the stretch of the season.
The Trojans (7-3) defeated Trinity Christian School (Texas) Thursday 75-74 in overtime at the Frank Herald Fieldhouse to open the tournament. They then upset Putnam City West 72-61 Friday at the Frank in the winners’ bracket matchup and then Saturday, they took care of business and completed the tournament sweep with a 57-52 win over Edmond Santa Fe at Union in the championship game.
Not only did Jenks beat the T-Wolves Saturday, but the Trojans did so without junior guard Chase Martin and head coach Clay Martin, who is in Green Bay, Wisconsin preparing to referee the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Junior forward Ben Averitt was named the Jenks/Union Invitational Most Valuable Player Saturday following the championship game and senior guard Stephen Kittleman was named to the All-Tournament Team.
“These tournaments are huge,” Averitt said. “These games determine if we get homecourt for the playoffs or not. We knew that coming and we knew we had to win a tournament. We started off this year struggling. We lost some close games we felt like we should have won. This is what it is all about for us. This was a huge turning point for us. We are healthy again and I think we have what it takes to be a state tournament team.”
In the championship game against Edmond Santa Fe, Jenks stormed out to a big lead in the first half and led the T-Wolves 31-13 at the break.
Santa Fe cut the lead to single digits several times throughout the second half, but the Trojans held off the pesky Wolves down the stretch.
Sophomore Gron Tata led Jenks with 13 points in the title game. Kittleman had 12 points. Junior Seth Wilkins had eight. Averitt finished with seven. Sophomore Dylan Golightly and senior Albert Diarra each had six and junior Cain Smith had five.
Against Putnam City West Friday, the Trojans were able to control the tempo and not let the Patriots get out and run on them. Jenks was able to get behind the full-court press defense from P.C. West numerous times and take advantage in the paint.
“We saw some things on film where we thought we could get a certain pass to create some numbers’ advantage and to our guys credit, they executed well,” Jenks coach Clay Martin said after the win over the Patriots. “We talked about playing north and south and I thought we did a good job of passing out of the trap and attacking out of the trap.”
The Trojans were able to control the ball and force Putnam City West into guarding them in a half-court set.
“When you play a team like that, they want you to shoot quickly,” Martin said. “I thought our guys did a really good job of staying with our tempo and making them adjust to us, which is hard to do.”
The Patriots made several runs trying to get back in the game, but the Trojans answered every time.
“I thought we really showed some poise,” Martin said. “They came out of the half and went on a run and we were able to answer and extend the lead. There were a lot of emotions in the game and I thought our guys played with poise like we talked about going into it.”
Averitt led the way for Jenks against Putnam West with 29 points. Chase Martin had 14 points. Kittleman finished with nine. Senior Carson Cooper and Golightly had six apiece. Smith had four. Wilkins had three and Diarra had two points.
“I knew I had to step up,” Averitt said. “We had about 10 days off with quarantine and everything, so I knew I had to come back and play hard and help my guys.”
Averitt said not having their head coach there all the time during the end of the NFL season is tough, but they play for him.
“We do it for him. He told us last game he wasn’t going to be there, so we knew we had to finish the job without him. He is the best coach in Oklahoma in my opinion, so him not being here hurts us a little bit, but we can still find a way to win.”
Next up for the Trojans will be an 8 p.m. Tuesday contest at Sand Springs.