By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
The list of pastimes for a high school basketball player in bantam-sized Burlington isn’t long.
“Go to the gym, pretty much,” said senior Brandon Gosselin, the Elks’ best player at 19 points and 12 rebounds per game and likely the best in a town of 153 Burlington-ites. “That’s pretty much all we do.”
Before Saturday’s third-place game in the Cherokee Strip Tournament at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center, the payoff from countless, nothing-better-to-do hours on a basketball court showed. Warm-up jumpers obediently dove through the net with relentless efficiency regardless of the shooter — not that there were many to choose from, which is the downside to Burlington’s small stature.
Fully stocked, the No. 12 Elks field seven players.
Never legion in number — the Lady Elks have 13 players, and the Elks themselves typically have about 15 — this year’s team was hamstrung early, when 2012-13’s incoming freshman basketball class included only girls.
With no new blood to fill a departing party of five seniors and one foreign exchange student whose stateside tour had expired, the boys basketball team in Burlington was the smallest it’s ever been in years, a coincidence that has presented its share of problems in games.
Foul trouble is even nearer and dearer to the Elks, a further bench-thinning disqualification potentially meaning the difference in a close game.
Already this season, Burlington has played without a full deck, utilizing just six players when senior guard Tyler Flackman missed time with an injury.
Out of habit, the Elks made due.
“It’s the same as playing with seven people,” Gosselin said. “You’ve just got to play hard and forget about everything else.”
Not that they didn’t take advantage of the odd chance to sneak in a breather.
“Wait for a timeout, wait for a ball to go out of bounds,” sophomore forward Kyle Ellerbeck said.
The short staff has more regularly hindered the team in preparation for games rather than during them, with many sessions limited to four, or even three players when their teammates had other obligations.
“It’s hard to practice,” said Gosselin, whose next smallest team had 13 players. “We’ve only got seven guys, and sometimes coach is out there trying to help us. He’ll be an eighth guy out there passing the ball trying to move us on defense.”
On the floor, the results have remained consistent with a town that’s grown to expect court consistency. Burlington is 339-115 in head coach Randy Turney’s 16-year tenure, and this season’s girls team is 20-3 and ranked fourth in Class B.
After finishing 27-3 a season ago, Burlington’s boys are 18-5 and ranked 12th in OKrankings.com’s latest poll.
Again on Saturday, Burlington hurdled its numbers disadvantage with relative ease, routing Lomega 62-29 to secure Cherokee Strip bronze.
“It’s because of coach,” Gosselin said. “He’s always on us. He has a gameplan for every game. He always makes sure that we know what we’re doing, who we need to guard, he’s on us in practice, working hard all the time. He’s the reason we’re always successful.”
Burlington visits Timberlake at 8 p.m. Friday. After a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Elks will host Prue in the District 5 finals at 8 p.m. Feb. 9, and already are guaranteed a spot in the regional bracket.
Four seniors will graduate after this season, which might produce an even more complicated roster situation for 2013-14’s team. Next season’s freshman class of players, though it could grow, is so far comparably robust — two.