The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 1, 2014

Burlington girls winning despite small numbers

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Burlington’s basketball teams are made of stern stuff.

A year ago, the Elk boys reached the state Class B tournament with only seven players.

This season, the Lady Elks — with just eight players — are ranked No. 11 with a 10-2 record and a championship at the recent Northwestern Oklahoma State University Prep Classic.

“It’s been a pretty pleasant surprise,’’ said Burlington coach Kirsten Pruett. “We lost two big players (Tiffany Rieger and Katelyn Garvie), but the young girls have stepped up. We’re pretty happy with what we have done so far.’’

No one has stepped up more than sophomore guard Sarah Garvie, the younger sister of Katelyn. Garvie has filled the role of scorer after the graduation of Rieger, who ranked No. 6 on the girls’ all-time five-on-five career scoring list in Oklahoma with 2,535 points.

The younger Garvie has shown remarkable consistency in averaging 24 points over Burlington’s six-game winning streak.

She has scored 20 or more in all six games with her biggest game being a 29-point effort in a 50-32 rout of South Barber, Kan., in the NWOSU semifinals.

“She hasn’t let anything bother her,’’ Pruett said. “Her edge is her competitiveness. She doesn’t let anything get to her.’’

Garvie’s competitiveness was shown this fall when she was an All-Stater in cross country.

“I’m not surprised at anything she’s done,’’ Pruett said. “She contributed quite a bit as a freshman (11 points and 4.5 rebounds per game). Sometimes you don’t know how long it will take a sophomore to step up, but she’s been our go-to girl.’’

Freshman Kelsi Smith is averaging more than 14 points and has been a solid rebounder (11 rebounds against South Barber).

“I’ve been real pleased to see how well she has adjusted to the high school game,’’ Pruett said. “She has been  real good contributor for us offensively and defensively. She lives only a couple of blocks away from the school and she spends a lot of time in the gym.’’

The other three starters — 5-foot-7 senior guard Heather Armbruster, 5-4 sophomore point guard Alysson Stewart and 5-6 forward-center Sadie Vore have been solid role players.

Vore, despite her small size in the post, has been the roadblock for opponents as the middle of Burlington’s zone defense.

“She has really stepped up her role defensively,’’ Pruett said. “She has kept the post players in check, which has been a big key for us defensively.’’

Stewart had the pressure of replacing four-year starter Katelyn Garvie, who was like having a coach on the floor, Pruett said.

“I expect more out of my point guard than most guards,’’ said Pruett, who was a spark plug at Cherokee. “Ally has done a great job. She is working hard and learning every day. She is settling in well.’’

Armbruster, who averaged two points per game last season, has “become more aggressive than she’s ever been,’’ Pruett said. “She has stepped into the leadership role as the team’s only senior.’’

The thin bench of Abbie Newman, Julia Ferrell and Tabitha James has contributed as well.

“If it wasn’t for them making the starters work hard in practice, we wouldn’t improve,’’ Pruett said. “They all have come in and filled their roles.’’

Pruett admits with only eight players her practices have been “creative.’’

The Lady Elks don’t do any scrimmaging until after school when Pruett can put in some junior high girls. Some of the Burlington boys have helped when their practice is over.

“You spend a lot of time on fundamentals,’’ Pruett said. “You can break down the fundamentals, and after school we can put all of those things together.’’

The Lady Elks don’t have a softball team so Pruett has had her team in the gym since August working on conditioning.

“I told them there’s only eight of us so we have to be in better shape than anybody around,’’ Pruett said.

The Lady Elks have allowed only 29.2 points per game during their win streak. A 44-43 loss at Kremlin-Hillsdale Nov. 26 served as a wakeup call. Burlington’s other loss was to No. 3 Lomega 66-46.

“We played horrible on defense (against Kremlin-Hillsdale),’’ Pruett said. “We spent the next week working on nothing but defense. We made it a point of emphasis. We preach defense. Defense is how we create our offense.’’

The Lady Elks, even with a small roster, still like to run.

“We like to put the clamps down on defense and get a turnover or a rebound and get a quick basket in transition,’’ Pruett said. “Our defense puts us in transition.’’

Burlington is off until Tuesday when it hosts Attica, Kan. It plays host Cherokee in the first round of the Cherokee Tournament Jan. 9-11. The girls field is loaded with Pond Creek-Hunter, Timberlake, Kremlin-Hillsdale and Covington-Douglas among the teams in the field.

“That tournament is going to be a big key for us before they (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association) start putting out the playoff pairings,” Pruett said.