Piedmont rallies to beat El Reno without suspended coach

Piedmont head coach Aaron Daniels gives instructions during a game last season.

Blake Colston

Hunter Oden scored 23 points and put home the game-winner with one second to play Friday night as Piedmont upset sixth-ranked El Reno 63-61 inside Collett Fieldhouse.

The Wildcats’ head coach and top assistant weren’t there to celebrate, though.

Hours earlier during seventh hour, Oden and his teammates learned that head coach Aaron Daniels and assistant coach Creed Flowers had been suspended indefinitely pending a district review of the duo’s off-court conduct.

“It was shocking, really,” Oden said.

Piedmont athletic director Layne Jones called their absence a personnel matter that he could not discuss.

Sources told The Piedmont-Surrey Gazette that the suspension resulted from a chain of group text messages between players and the coaching staff in which Daniels and Flowers used foul language and made inappropriate comments about women.

The messages were brought to Piedmont’s administration Friday morning by a parent of a player on the team, sources said.

The school district issued a statement Friday night.

“Piedmont Public Schools is committed to providing a positive, respectful school environment for students and staff. A report of a possible failure to follow district policy in regards to communication by school employees has been brought to our attention. We are in the process of completing a thorough investigation of these allegations,” the statement read. “At this time, members of our boys’ basketball coaching staff, including head coach Aaron Daniels, will not be actively coaching our team. This decision is for an indefinite period, beginning today.”

Daniels will not teach during the suspension.

Piedmont Intermediate school assistant principal Eric Carr served as acting head coach Friday night and will continue to do so. Carr is not currently a coach within the district, but coached girls basketball at El Reno and Calumet previously.

He said he’d seen the team play ‘a couple of times this season’ before being thrust into the role of head coach on short notice.

“It wasn’t about me tonight,” Carr said. “It was all those guys tonight. They played great.”

Piedmont (3-4) rallied from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit on 3-pointers from Oden, Rylan McDaniel and Dylan Hahn to tie the game at 57.

With the game even at 61 with 0:17 seconds to play, El Reno (6-2) tried to hold for the final shot, but McDaniel deflected a pass and saved it from going out of bounds with a behind-the-back pass to Hahn near midcourt who threw ahead to Oden for a layup with less than a second to go.

“Rylan made a good steal and I just took off,” Oden said of his first-ever game-winner.

McDaniel said the last-second scenario was one that Piedmont had gone over many times before in practice and that he had a good idea Hahn would be in the middle of the court to collect his pass.

“I just said, be there, bro. You’re always there in practice,” McDaniel said.

Carr credited McDaniel for suggesting Piedmont switch to a 2-3 zone on the game’s final possession, which the Wildcats did.

McDaniel said he thought the zone would keep El Reno center Eli Hollis, who scored a game-high 25 points, from getting an open shot down low, but that wasn’t the only reason he made the suggestion.

“I was in foul trouble and I didn’t want to foul out,” he said. “It worked out for the best.”

McDaniel scored 11 points.

Oden said regrouping after the stunning news was a challenge, but that it was the team’s only good option.

“We knew we had to play,” Oden said. “Either you roll up and get beat or you fight. So we fought.”