By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The Midland, Texas, Women’s National Invitational Tournament was supposed to be a gage where the No. 9 preseason ranked Northern Oklahoma College Enid Lady Jets basketball team could see how the meausre up.
Now, it’s a test of the adversity-ridden Lady Jets’ character.
Injuries or illness have sidelined four Lady Jets — freshman Jordan Garner, sophomore Sherri Lang, redshirt freshman Shelby Layn and sophomore Tory Dwyer.
Highly-touted freshman Kati Sullivan has missed the last four games and her status for the three-day tournament, which begins today is on a day-day-basis.
NOC Enid (4-2) will face Odessa, Texas, in a 6 p.m. tipoff today.
“This team is in a unique place right now,’’ said Lady Jets coach Scott Morris. “We have as much talent as we have ever had, but we have faced as much adversity early in the season as we have ever had.
“We’re in the process of trying to find our identity. We’re putting some pieces together. Right now, this tournament could push us either way. We’re going into it to make us better.’’
The injuries decimated the Lady Jets so much, they “couldn’t literally practice,’’ Morris said.
The coach recruited former area players Rani Melvin, Jessica Tatro, Jordan Collier and manager McKinsey Schumpert just to fill out the roster.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of those girls,’’ Morris said. “They have helped us immensely with their work ethic and attitude. They’re just not in it to be practice players now. They’re learning our system. They are way behind the curve, but as they catch up, they will be able to help us.’’
The NOC Enid-Odessa winner will play the winner of the 2 p.m. game between No. 4 Trinity Valley(Texas) and the College of Southern Idaho.
The other side of the bracket has No. 2 Central Arizona against Angelina College and No. 20 Midland against Cloud County (Kan.) Community College.
Marisha Wallace leads the attack with a 24-point average.Christa Beasler has three straight 12-point games. Freshman Shannon Hough is averaging 9.6 points per game.
The Lady Jets have won three straight since falling to Cowley County (Kan.) 58-50 in a game which they committed 35 turnovers and were only 11 of 40 from the field.
“Only time will tell if we will use this adversity and build on it to make us stronger or if we’re going to let it get the best of us and dismantle us,’’ Morris said. “We have to make this a positive experience and get things going in the right direction.’’
In the past few years, Morris has tried to use the early part of the season to build on a national ranking. He still wants to win every game, but is shifting his focus some.
“Now, it’s to regroup and become more solid down the stretch,’’ he said.
He hopes the trip will be a good bonding experience with the long bus ride to West Texas.
“They’re going to be spending a lot of time together,’’ he said. “Let’s hope it does that.’’
Odessa has a strong tradition, being the national runner-up in 2006 and 2007.
“It will be a tough opponent for us and we’ll be a tough opponent for them,’’ Morris said. “This ought to be a great tournament.’’
NOC Enid opens conference play Monday at Redlands.