The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 27, 2014

Pacers hope 3rd time’s the charm

Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Never mind the team-record 10-game win streak, or the highest win total in his career, or even the 50th in three seasons as the Pacers’ head coach. Robb Mills just wants a win in the opening round.

Enid High’s girls, ranked 15th in 6A in the Oklahoma Secondary Schools’ final rankings and 18-5 — already the best record in Mills’ stint at the Pacers’ helm — are in a similar spot to the ones they were in the last two seasons: A top-20 team in 6A, a 16-plus-win team and one expected to contend for a state tournament berth.

They only hope they don’t end up in the same spot they were in a game after those last two seasons of promising postseason entries: eliminated.

“As much as we love history and breaking records, this game is more important than that streak,” Mills said Wednesday, immediately after the last of what he and his players agreed was a rigorous week of practice preparing for today’s 6:30 p.m. playoff opener vs. No. 14 Edmond Memorial at Broken Arrow, the loser of which will have its season end.

It’s an end the Pacers have grown unfortunately familiar with, making first-round exits in 2011-12 after a 49-41 loss to Bartlesville and a 63-53 defeat by Mustang last season. But this season’s lead-in to the first round has been different than those and any other in Pacer history. Enid enters today’s elimination game with 10 straight wins, compared to three late losses last season, and with a healthy lineup, something they didn’t have a year ago when Andi Pierce was recovering from a shoulder injury. The team mentality has changed, too, Mills said, altering everything from the Pacers’ preseason goals — the opening entry to which being a win in the team’s playoff opener — to a late-season mantra, “one more Saturday.”

“You don’t ever get over (the losses),” said junior Haven Bay, who was an eighth-grader when Enid’s girls last made the state tournament in 2011, but was on the freshman team and made the trip. “Even talking about last year against Mustang, my freshman year against Bartlesville, it sucks. That’s the worst feeling is losing when you can do nothing about it.”

“It doesn’t feel like just another game,” added senior Grace Enmeier, a freshman for the Pacers’ 2011 state trip. “We know we have to win it, or we’re done, especially (fellow seniors) Abby (Lee), Shelley (Mueller) and I.”

Edmond Memorial (13-7) enters today’s game having split its last six games after a 10-4 start. Memorial has lost six of 10 games against 6A’s top-20 teams.