Why state's biggest shot came at the end of a blowout
Christian Patterson pulled off his sweatshirt, rubbed his palms and bounced his legs.
He knew it was his time.
From his seat at the end of Cyril’s bench, he leaned over and waited for Shane McLemore to give the signal. Only when the coach looked and waved did the junior with the floppy brown hair spring out of his chair, sprint toward the scorer’s table and bound onto the court.
What happened next will long be the stuff of Big House legend.
On the day our state’s best small-school basketball teams punched their tickets to Saturday’s state championship games, there were tons of memorable moments at State Fair Arena. Big shots. Huge rebounds. But with an unbelievably classy assist from Okarche, nothing was more special than what Christian Patterson did.
Christian is autistic, and while he doesn't play much for Cyril, he is a huge part of the team.
“He comes to every practice,” McLemore said. “He goes through all our drills. He leads us in our exercises and our stretches.”
Smiling and laughing all the way.
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“The kids laugh with him,” McLemore said. “It just brings a great atmosphere to our team to have him out there.”
They love to have him get into games, too. Whenever Cyril builds a big enough lead late in a game, there’s a chance for Christian to get playing time.
“Every time he comes in, I just get excited,” said Albert Suarez, the team’s whirling dervish of a point guard. “Every time he makes a shot, it just hypes me up.”
Yes, Christian has gotten into enough games this season to have scored several baskets. He has nearly 20 points in all.
Still, when Cyril made state, there was no guarantee Christian would get in. It didn’t happen the past two years when the team qualified for the tournament. Games were too close.
But Thursday in the Class A quarterfinals against Frontier, Cyril built a 30-point lead and Christian got into the game. The first time he got the ball, it was promptly stolen away. The next time, he took a couple steps, then about a dozen more and the referees called him for traveling.
They nearly got booed out of the gym at Mustang.
Friday in the semifinals, Cyril built a similarly big lead against Okarche, and again, it was Christian’s time.
As he checked in, one of the referees held up his hand to signal a stop in play. Christian skipped by and high-fived the unsuspecting ref, who couldn't help breaking into a smile.
Cyril immediately got the ball to Christian, and Okarche’s players backed off. Their longtime coach, Ray West, said he didn’t have any advance conversations with them about how to treat Christian.
They simply realized what to do.
“That’s the way our kids are,” West said. “Stuff like that there … pretty classy.”
It’s a testament not only to the players on the court but also the coaches on the bench, the mamas and papas in the stands and the whole of Okarche. That town raises good humans.
Christian took a shot, and all of the Big House held its breath.
When he got the ball again and traveled a bit — OK, a lot — and the referees smartly swallowed their whistles, everyone seemed to freeze. Hoping. Praying.
Less than 10 seconds remained when Cyril again got the ball to Christian on an inbound pass. Miss again, and there might not be enough time for another shot. Christian took the ball on the left block, eyed the rim and lofted the ball toward the hoop.
Pandemonium erupted as fans on both sides of the arena cheered. A few kids in the Okarche student section even jumped up and down in celebration; told you they get good home training.
Even though Christian took the moment in stride at the time — his basket was Cyril’s last in an 80-55 victory — he was beaming when he came out of the locker room after the game.
“I can’t believe I made two points,” he said. “I mean, wow. It’s pretty good.”
Indeed it is.
“I can’t believe I’m being interviewed on the news,” he continued. “Which channel is it going to be on?”
Can’t put you on TV, Christian, but we’ll get your name in the newspaper.
Our state has seen several special baskets over the past few years. Awesome moments. Great stories. But none were at the Big House in the state tournament.
None were quite like Christian Patterson’s.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.