By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Enid girls coach Robb Mills doesn’t expect a letdown when the No. 9-ranked Pacers visit arch rival Stillwater in the first half of a girls-boys basketball doubleheader at 6:30 tonight.
The Pacers are coming off an emotional 68-66 loss to No. 8 Muskogee in the finals of the Muskogee Shrine Classic Saturday. It broke an seven-game winning streak for the 9-2 EHS girls.
“It was one of those losses that was very disappointing, but you walked away feeling good after seeing where you stand,’’ Mills said. “We know we can play with the big girls now. At least is my direction, everything is positive.’’
Mills felt the Pacers played their best basketball of the season at Muskogee.
“The last three games, the girls have really stepped up and started playing basketball the way we envision this team would,’’ Mills said. “Early on, we won a lot of games, but we didn’t feel like we were playing our best basketball. We’re not there yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.’’
Mills was encouraged by how the Pacers were sharing the ball on offense and “paying attention to detail’’ on defense.
Stillwater, 8-4 and ranked No. 19 in 6A, has won four of its last five games, including a 44-42 win over Ada in the consolation finals of the East Central Classic in Ada Saturday. Austyn Iven led Stillwater with 11 points, including the winning free throws with 4.4 seconds left.
Enid swept Stillwater a year ago, winning on the road 51-37 and at home 64-36.
The Lady Pioneers, Mills said, have played well as a team collectively after the graduation of All-Stater LaNesha Middleton, who now plays at Stephen F. Austin.
“This week is take care of rivalry week,’’ Mills said. “We’re playing two teams (Stillwater and Ponca City Friday) that would love to knock us off. They play a zone defense, so we’re going to have to knock down some shots and play smart basketball.’’
Courtney Chelf leads the EHS attack with a 16.6 average. She had a season-high 27 points against Muskogee. Abby Lee is averaging 10 points a game.
The roles are reversed in the boys game, where the 4-7 Plainsmen will be trying to knock off the No. 8 9-3 Pioneers, who are coming off a championship at the East Central Invitational.
Stillwater beat Ponca City 50-47 in the finals Saturday for its fourth straight win.The Pioneers came back from a 26-13 halftime disadvantage, thanks to a 24-point eruption in the fourth quarter.
Rico Thompson, a Division I prospect, led the Pioneers with 18 points.
EHS coach Ryan Wilkinson does not look for the Pioneers to have a letdown after the tournament championship. However, he said it might be to Enid’s advantage to have 10 days of rest when Stillwater might be a little fatigued from the tournament.
“It’s going to be a tough task,’’ Wilkinson said. “I think our kids will get up because we always get up for Stillwater. Knocking off a top-ranked team toward the end of the year helps you in the seedings. It would definitely be a plus for us.’’
The two teams split last year with the Pioneers winning at Stillwater (68-41) and the Plainsmen winning in Enid (55-50).
“It’s a typical rivalry atmosphere,’’ Wilkinson said.
The Pioneers play “really smart’’ and “are really good at finding the open man,’’ Wilkinson said.
“Thompson looks like a guy who can make a lot of things happen, whether he’s scoring or assisting others to score. We have to do a good job on him.’’
The Plainsmen are looking to win three straight games for the first time this season. They are coming off wins over Norman 57-52 on Dec. 29 and Guthrie, 57-51 on Jan. 4.
“We have gotten better,’’ Wilkinson said. “We have had a good 10 days of practice.’’
Wilkinson’s biggest concern is getting used to game speed again.
“We have to get off to a good start,’’ he said. “We have to keep them out of the lane. They do a good job of penetrating to the basket.’’
Aaron Austin leads the EHS offense with a 10.2 average, followed by Jemarcus Jackson (9.6), Correll Baker (9.5) and Deon Parker (9.3).
KGWA Radio (960 AM) will air both games.