Seven of the eight teams entered in the schoolboy basketball Tournament of Champions are ranked in the top five of the respective classes.

Only Class 5A Bixby, a late addition to the field after another dropped out, is unranked.

The tournament, now in its 43rd turn, begins with four games today and tonight at the Fairgrounds Pavilion in Tulsa.

Class B Stringtown and Class 4A Oklahoma City McGuinness are defending state champions and each is ranked No. 1 by CoachesAid magazine.

Jenks (6A), Tulsa East Central (5A), Pawnee (2A) and Tahlequah Sequoyah (3A) are each ranked No. 2. Class 3A Verdigris is ranked fourth.

The Bixby Spartans of Class 5A are making their second Tournament of Champions appearance, having competed in 1975. Under the guidance of coach Bobby Brummett, the Spartans reached the quarterfinals of last year's state tournament, finishing 22-5. That was their first state tournament appearance since their Tournament of Champions year of 1975.

The Jenks Trojans are the two-time defending tournament champions. They are one of only three teams to have won back-to-back Tournament of Champions, and no team has won three in a row. This is the eighth time the Trojans have been in the Tournament of Champions field. Junior Bryson Pope leads the way for the Trojans, having made the all-tournament team as a sophomore and finishing among the leaders in points (54) and rebounds (31) Coach Clay Martin, who made the all-tournament team as a player in 1992 with Tulsa Hale, is in his fifth season with the Trojans. As player and coach, Martin has an 8-1 record in the Tournament of Champions. Jenks reached the Class 6A quarterfinals last spring, finishing with a 21-5 record.

Oklahoma City McGuinness is the two-time defending state champion in Class 4A. The Irish have won seven state championships, all since 1989, including four in row from 1998 through 2001. They are making their fifth trip to the Tournament of Champions, having finished second in 1998 and in 2000. Coach Tondrell Durham is in his 10th season with the Irish. Leading the way for the Irish for the second year in a row is 6-10 Daniel Orton, the Most Valuable Player of the Class 4A state tournament in March, as a sophomore.

The Pawnee Black Bears of Class 2A are in their third straight Tournament of Champions. With Keiton Page at point guard, the Black Bears have won the state championship and finished runner-up within the last three seasons. After his second straight all-tournament selection last season, Page has moved into the Top 10 of career scoring leaders for the Tournament of Champions. He already owns the state tournament scoring record for three games. His father, David Page, is coaching in his fifth Tournament of Champions, having brought Yale here in 1999 and 2001.

The Stringtown Tigers are in the field for the third time, and for the second straight season. They posted a 27 and 4 record and won the Class B state championship last spring, their third in history, and did not have a state tournament game closer than 13 points. An all-state tournament selection, James Watson, is back for his senior season. The 6-9 Watson, who is headed to Washington State, might not have made the all-tournament team at the Tournament of Champions, but he did make the all-star squad following the state tournament. Bryan Dobbs is in his first season as head coach of the Tigers, succeeding Dirk Walden.

Tahlequah Sequoyah is making its fifth straight trip to the Tournament of Champions, a record for non-Tulsa schools. The Indians finished second in 2003 and third last year. Also consistent at state tournament time, Sequoyah is a staple of the post-season playoffs. The Indians won the Class 3A championship in 2003 and finished runner-up last year. Mike Soap, now a senior, made the all-tournament team at state last season. Coach Larry Grigg has been at the controls throughout the Indians' success this decade.

The Tulsa East Central Cardinals were in the original Tournament of Champions field in 1966, and are now back for their second in a row. The Cardinals reached the Class 5A state tournament finals last season before falling. And two of the key operatives from that run are back this year. Sidney Hadnott and Ken Holdman were all-state tournament selections as juniors.

The Verdigris Cardinals enter the Tournament of Champions with the defending state scoring champion, Rotnei Clarke. The Cardinals have made three straight trips to the Class 3A state tournament semifinals. And over the last two seasons, Clarke has led the state in scoring, Last season, he set the single-game state tournament scoring record with 60 points. He also led the Tournament of Champions in scoring last year, moving into fifth place all time for three games.


Game 1 — Stringtown (B, 10-2) vs. Tulsa East Central (5A, 2-1), 2 p.m.

Game 2 — Verdigris (3A, 6-1) vs. OC McGuinness (4A, 3-2), 3:30 p.m.

Game 3 — Pawnee (2A, 2-1) vs. Jenks (6A, 5-0), 7 p.m.

Game 4 — Tahlequah Sequoyah (3A, 2-2) vs. Bixby (5A, 2-2), 8:30 p.m.


Game 5 — Game 2 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 2 p.m.

Game 6 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 3:30 p.m.

Game 7 — Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.

Game 8 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m.


7th Place — noon.

5th Place — 2 p.m.

3rd Place — 7 p.m.

Championship — 8:30 p.m.

Where: Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion

Tickets: $5 for students, $6 for adults.