ENID, Okla. —
Being the youngest of four children is not always easy.
Deer Creek-Lamont’s Jessica Blanton, who was preceded by sister Janise and brothers Luke and Jacob in DCLA circles, always sees the positives about being the “little sister.’’
“They pestered me a lot, but they made me the player that I am today,’’ said Blanton, who scored 15 points in DCLA’s 41-35 win over Kremlin-Hillsdale in the girls consolation finals of the Cherokee Strip Conference Tournament at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center on Saturday.
Her siblings always kidded her that she wouldn’t be as good as they were.
She is getting the last laugh so far.
Janise was a standout in basketball, but her teams never went further than the area tournament.
Younger sis Jessica has already been to state twice and she has two more chances.
“That’s why I made it to where I am,’’ Blanton said kiddingly. “I wanted to show them.’’
Janise, who is six years older, was an inspiration to her.
“She was good,’’ Blanton said. “She was always there to help me.’’
Blanton already is meriting attention statewide. One publication put her among the state’s top 50 girls, even though she was just a junior.
“That’s very cool,’’ she said. ”It made me want to play a lot better, so I can be in the top 10 the next time. It motivates me.’’
The notoriety has earned her respect among opponents. Blanton, known for both her three-point shooting and penetrating to the basket, is seeing box-and-one defenses designed to slow her down.
“That’s the hardest thing about being a three-point shooter,’’ she said. “There’s a girl in your face all of the time.’’
She has learned to live with it.
“I think I’ve handled it OK,’’ Blanton said. “You just work with what you have. My teammates are pretty good.’’
Blanton hit three treys against Kremlin-Hillsdale, but teammate Katherine Muegge took pressure off of her by hitting three treys in the second half as the Lady Eagles came back from a 19-14 halftime deficit.
“I’m glad we came together as a team and won it,’’ Blanton said. “I could have hit more shots, but I didn’t.’’
Blanton faced further challenges Thursday when she and her teammates had to go against their former coach, Chad Hutchison of Cherokee for the first time.
“That was hard,’’ she said. “He knew that we were going to go hard no matter what. We wanted to beat him and his team.’’
However, Cherokee denied the Lady Eagles a possible second straight conference tournament title 43-39.
“It felt funny,’’ Blanton said about going against her former coach. “But I tried to take it just like another game.’’
Blanton is adjusting to new coach Jim Lewis. The Lady Eagles are 10-6. They won the recent Mulhall-Orlando Tournament.
“They’re both just a little different,’’ Blanton said.
Blanton set two goals for herself this season — to average 15 points and return to the state tournament. She is averaging 13.8 points over the last five games and still is hopeful of another trip to Oklahoma City for state.
“It’s fun to play there,’’ she said. “I’m hungrier now. I think we have a chance to make it if we played like we did in the third and fourth quarters today.’’
Blanton is well-acquainted with the Coliseum with this being her third conference tournament. She had 16 points in a 61-57 upset of Lomega in last year’s finals and had 25 against Ringwood in her first-ever game there as a freshman.
“It’s a tough place to shoot, a lot harder than most,’’ Blanton said, “but sometimes I can get in a zone here.’’
Blanton is a versatile athlete. She was fourth in the state cross country meet last fall and is a breakaway roper on the rodeo circuit, a rarity among girls.
“The whole family does it,’’ she said.
Another family debate, too.
“I might be better than what Janise was,’’ she said with a smile.
Rodeo was a natural since she has grown up on a horse farm. She said basketball is much more physical.
“I’ve never been hurt in rodeo,’’ she said. “I never have a fear of injury.’’
The quiet Blanton lives for the moment.
“I really don’t know what I’m going to do in the future,’’ she said. “I’m just a junior. I have plenty of time left.’’
Which Lewis is grateful for.
“She’s a good kid who works hard,’’ he said. “We have a bunch of good kids here. I wouldn’t trade the DCLA kids for anybody. They get the best out of their ability.’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.