The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 17, 2013

Pacers roll into Ponca City, Plainsmen seek traction

By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Never mind the 6-1 start — coach Robb Mills said the No. 10 Enid girls are playing their best basketball in the 4-1 stretch since winter break.

“We’ve taken some steps in the right direction, especially at the Muskogee tournament,” he said.

When the team entered its time off on a seemingly high note, beating then 4A’s 16th-ranked Woodward 50-43 on the road on Dec. 18, Mills said the team hadn’t come close to its potential, a sentiment the Pacers themselves echoed.

Now the team is backing that claim.

Enid’s lone loss since Jan. 4, the end of the team’s 15-day hiatus, was in last week’s championship game of the Muskogee Shrine Tournament, when the Pacers lost 68-66 to homestanding No. 8 Muskogee. Even in the loss, perhaps the most important cog in Enid’s machinery, senior and leading scorer Courtney Chelf, scored a season-high 27 points, punctuating a second half that has her topping 17 points per game, up from 15.1 before the break.

“I worked really hard over Christmas to get my shot going,” Chelf said. “I feel like my offense is getting a lot better.”

“(Chelf) is picking up her game, but our whole team is,” Mills said. “We’ve had balanced scoring every night, so I think the team is taking a step forward.”

Among Chelf’s teammates contributing to the Pacers’ five-point uptick per game in the last five contests is Haven Bay, who scored a season-best 15 Tuesday against No. 19 Stillwater to raise her average to 11.2 from 8.0.

Freshman Andi Pierce, who has averaged 9.4 points per game during that same stretch, up from 5.8, including a career-high 11 on Tuesday.

“The Stillwater game, we had four girls in double digits,” said Bay. “That’s good, when everyone’s scoring.”

Ponca City enters tonight’s game at 4-9, including four losses in five games since its own winter vacation, running opposite the visiting Pacers’ recent run.

“They’ve played some very good teams close,” Mills said. “They’re always good rebounders, they’re always good on defense, so we’ve just got to be ready. They play as disciplined of basketball as probably a team can play.”

“They’re always hard to play,” Bay said. “Their defense is always really good, and they’re always really well-coached.”

Plainsmen’s Jackson tries to find early-season form

Jemarcus Jackson entered his senior season as the Plainsmen’s leading returning scorer.

He didn’t disappoint early, debuting with a 21-point outburst in the team’s opening loss to Midwest City and averaging a team-best 13.5 in the first four games as Enid opened 2-2.

Since then, Enid (4-8) has lost six of eight, and Jackson has scored just 7.3 points per game, breaking double digits only twice.

“I think right now he’s just dealing with some confidence issues in his offense,” said coach Ryan Wilkinson, who made a point to add the Plainsmen’s struggles were by no means based on Jackson’s offensive slow-down.

“When you have a few games and you’re not scoring what you think you need to, it’s going to hurt your confidence a little bit … He just needs to get back to what he knows he can do.”

Jackson agreed he wasn’t feeling as confident as he had earlier in the season.

“Great shooters become great shooters by having confidence in their shot, and I’ve been losing it lately, and I’ve been trying to get it back,” said Jackson, who said he wants to start games inside before shooting from range. “All I can do is keep working, and keep shooting, and I’ll gain it back.”

Jackson was at his best when Enid needed his production most, scoring a team-high 14 in a double-digit rally to beat Norman 53-52 late last month, and though he’s scored just five and eight in the team’s two games since, the Plainsmen can win their third game in four tries on Friday when they visit a Ponca City team that has stumbled through its own recent run of rugged play.

The Wildcats (4-9) have lost four of eight, most recently in a 59-56 overtime loss to 4A No. 3 Victory Christian School.

“They’re big, they’re strong,” Wilkinson said. “We’re going to have to do a really good job rebounding against them. We’ll be giving up a little bit of size at almost every position.”

“If we go out there and just feel like we’re automatically going to win, they’re going to beat us,” Jackson said. “That’s what that team’s about. The more people that have less confidence in what they do, they’re going to come out and prove (otherwise) to them.”

Maybe by Saturday, the same will be said about Jackson.