By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Paige Eaton’s biggest struggle going from Claremore Sequoyah High School to Northern Oklahoma College Enid hasn’t been adjusting to a faster, more physical game.
It’s playing with an injury doctors haven’t been fully able to diagnose. Doctors think it might be compartment syndrome in one of her legs, but still aren’t certain.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m playing on one leg,’’ said the freshman who still has earned a starting berth for the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference-leading Lady Jets (8-2 conference and 16-6 overall), who travel to Northeastern A&M (7-3 conference) tonight.
The condition occurs when there is not a sufficient amount of blood to supply the muscles and nerves with oxygen and nutrients because of the raised pressure within the compartment ( i.e. leg) or any enclosed space within the body, and leads to nerve damage because of the lack of blood supply.
She said she should be finding out in the next few weeks exactly what is wrong.
“It’s frustrating,’’ Eaton said. “I try to play through it. I know I have to work hard because nothing is going to be given to me.’’
She just tries to block out the pain during the game.
“I try not to think about it,’’ Eaton said. “During a game, it’s easier to stay focused on the game, and not worry about how much I’m hurting.’’
Eaton is averaging 4.6 points per game, but is coming off two of her two best games — 12 points in a 54-42 win at Murray State Jan 21 and 14 against Carl Albert on Jan. 24.
She is averaging 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
“I’ve never been a dominant scorer,’’ Eaton said. “I look to pass most of the time. I can trust them to score, so I don’t mind giving them the ball. I’m not worried about how many points I score.’’
NOC Enid coach Scott Morris said he admires Eaton’s grit and determination.
“She’s a tough kid,’’ Morris said. “She’s just developed into a smart player. That’s why we brought her in here. She’s smart, and she’s adjusts with every game. You want a freshman to step up and become a leader and she’s really done that.’’
Eaton prefers to talk about her teammates instead of herself.
“It’s more about team with me,’’ she said. “I enjoy playing with these girls every day. I wouldn’t be as good as I am without them. They push me to be better. I just try to set a good example. I just try to lead by example.
Eaton was a point guard in high school, but guarded the posts on defense.
“It’s a lot more physical here,’’ she said. “I had to get stronger. Playing with these girls helps me with that because we push each other around a lot to make each other better. I’ve tried to work hard every day. My teammates have pushed me where I’m doing things that I normally don’t do.’’
The chemistry among the Lady Jets was the main selling point in choosing NOC Enid over four-year schools Southwestern Kansas and Oklahoma Wesleyan.
“I knew this place was perfect,’’ she said. “We all like to hang out with each other. It gets tough on the court sometimes, but it’s to make us all better.’’
The Lady Jets, ranked No. 22 nationally, had an 11-game win streak broken at home by Redlands 73-70 Monday.
“We just have to forget about it and move on,’’ Eaton said. “We know what we need to fix. Our defense wasn’t working well. It’s an easy thing to fix. Today (Tuesday) in practice we’ll get those things fixed.’’
NOC Enid beat the Norsewomen 56-52 at Enid on Nov. 27. With leading scorer Marisha Wallace ill, Eaton contributed a then season-high 13 points in the win.
“We’re going to be ready to go,’’ Eaton said. “We just have a few minor adjustments to make. We should be coming out strong.’’
The only bad thing is a four-hour bus trip to Miami.
“That’s not fun,’’ Eaton said. “It’s hard to focus after a long trip like that, but we make it happen most of the time.’’
Eaton has gotten a different perspective of basketball by officiating youth games at the Denny Price Family YMCA on Saturdays.
“I understand what the referees go through now,’’ she said. “I don’t get on the refs because I know now what they go through.’’
The only bad part is she’s on her legs for 10 hours. The fans generally are positive.
“It’s fun,’’ Eaton said. “I like watching the girls play. They’re fun to watch. It’s third-grade girls, there’s not much they (fans) can say.’’
Eaton tries to be a role model for those players. Morris calls her the “epitome of what this program stands for.’’
“I try to say things to them that would give them encouragement,’’ Eaton said.’’
She doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her because of her condition.
“I know God has a plan for me,’’ she said. “I know I’ll be in there, no matter what happens next. I’ll be ready to go Thursday, for sure.’’
Jets seek 3rd-straight win
The Jets (16-6 overall and 6-4 conference) will be going for their third-straight win tonight. They are coming off a 69-66 victory over Redlands on Monday.
Jeremy Espinoza leads the Jets’ attack with a 15.95 average, followed by Dalen Qualls (15.9) and Connor Brooks (13.8).
Espinoza said Tuesday an elbow he injured against the Cougars is feeling better.
NOC Enid beat the Norsemen (6-4 conference) 79-56 at Enid on Nov. 27 with five players in double figures.
The two opponents are two games behind NOC Tonkawa (8-2) in the league race.
KCRC (1390 AM) will broadcast both games.