ENID, Okla. —
Tonight, the No. 23-ranked Northern Oklahoma College Enid Lady Jets (10-3) host Eastern (11-2) at 6 with first place in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference on the line.
That’s exactly why Alva freshman Rylie Swanson chose to cast her lot with the Lady Jets.
“It’s pretty exciting,’’ she said. “I’ve always heard how Northern is always top notch, and always come out on top in close games.’’
Swanson led the Lady Jets with 10 points in a 54-41 win at Eastern on Jan. 10. She looks for a similar game tonight.
“We’re going to have to play defense,’’ Swanson said. “They are so athletic and quick; we’re going to have to help each other out.’’
Swanson has had a learning year so far for the Lady Jets. She matched her season high with 16 points in a 74-51 win at Seminole Feb. 4, but was scoreless in a 70-54 victory at NOC Tonkawa Thursday.
For the season, she’s averaging eight points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and two assists a game. Swanson is hitting 35.4 percent from the field, 31.2 percent from 3-point range and 78.9 percent from the line.
“It’s exactly what I thought it was going to be,’’ Swanson said about the transition. “We work hard all the time. That’s what I want to do.’’
Swanson had averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds in earning All-State honors at Alva as a senior. It was difficult at first to adjust from not being the first offensive option.
“I like it a lot better now,’’ Swanson said. “There’s not a much pressure on me to do stuff when we have people, who can help me out. I can do whatever I want to do. That really helps.’’
She admits, though, she “is one of the worst players about putting pressure on myself.’’
“I feel like I should do good every time out,’’ Swanson said. “You can’t do that all the time, I do put pressure on myself. I just try to get with the flow.’’
When Swanson has a bad game, she gets back in the gym with roommate and close friend Paige Eaton.
“We shoot a lot together,’’ she said. “I watch a lot of film. My dad sends me a lot of clips about what I should and shouldn’t do. Those things help me a lot.
“Sometimes I do get down on myself, but the games come around so quick, you don’t have time to pout about ‘I didn’t make this shot.’ You got to step up again.’’
She didn’t score against Murray State on Jan. 21, but came back later to have 11 in a 64-53 win over Carl Albert Jan. 24.
“She’s adjusting,’’ said NOC Enid coach Scott Morris. “She has had a steady incline throughout the season. That’s all you can ask of your kids.’’
“I think I’m starting to get in the groove of things,’’ Swanson said. “After a semester here, I know what I can and what I can’t do and what I should do at times. I’m getting a lot more comfortable than I was.
“I don’t know what happened against Tonkawa. Usually after a bad game, I can say I wasn’t feeling it or things weren’t clicking, but I can’t put it in words about last night (Thursday). Everyone else picked up the slack. We had a lot of girls hit tough shots.’’
Swanson said it was an advantage living in the backyard of a four-year college (Northwestern Oklahoma State).
“I saw them practice,’’ she said. “It (college) was exactly what I thought it was going to be.’’
Swanson, Morris said, has a tough role. She’s a power forward where she is counted on to rebound and shoot 3s. On defense, she frequently has to go against athletic post players.
“She’s working hard to get better every day,’’ Morris said.
“Those girls are way bigger than the ones I played against in high school,’’ Swanson said. “I just try to get the job done, but it’s tough down there.’’
Swanson has learned from sophomores Chelsea Bates and Marisha Wallace. Wallace, a 6-foot-1 post, is averaging 18.2 points a game. Bates, who is averaging 9.8 points a game, had a season-high 19 against Tonkawa.
“I love playing with them,’’ Swanson said. “To have a point guard who can go off the dribble and can shoot the three is huge. To have a dominating body like Marisha in the post is awesome.’’
She is grateful to stepdad Greg Grimsley, who sending her film clicks and offering advice and encouragement.
“He’s the reason why I kept going,’’ Swanson said.
Not that Swanson ever seriously thought of ever giving basketball up.
“Sometimes I thought maybe this isn’t the thing for me, then two seconds later, I’m thinking, ‘what are you thinking about, you really love this game.’’’
Swanson has had to play before games that would be dwarfed by the ones she played in front of in high school.
“Sometimes it’s hard,’’ Swanson said, “but we got the music going and the cheerleaders and the student body, who are awesome. As long as we get ourselves pumped up, it’s all right. The people who do come to the games are pretty rowdy.’’
Winning is the biggest motivator anyway. Lady Jets assistant Kate Snodgrass has told her team to envision having success.
“That helps a lot,’’ she said. “I just like to listen to music. I sweat a lot before games. Coach Morris said he really us to sweat a lot to get warmed up.’’
She listens to country music to get up for games.
Her role model is Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, for not only his play, but his demeanor.
“My stepdad compares me to him,’’ Swanson said. “His emotions never change. That’s awesome. I’ve never seen him, except for one game, get mad or anything. He goes on to the next play, which is really hard to do for a player. He really does it well.’’
Swanson said she is working hard to continue to improve. She said she’s grateful Morris “has pulled the reins on me ... that has helped me a lot. I know when I can do things.’’
Swanson is happy with the team’s season so far.
“We had it a little rough early (5-5 start) but we were playing a lot of games and we were a little tired and fatigued,’’ Swanson said. “We have stepped up.’’
Jets look to bounce back
The Jets (16-8 overall, 7-6 conference) , in the 8 p.m. men’s game will be looking to bounce back from Thursday’s 58-54 loss to NOC Tonkawa.
NOC Enid lost at Eastern (6-7) 85-76 on Jan. 10 despite 18 points from Dalen Qualls and 16 from Jeremy Espinoza.
The Jets sophomores are 0-4 overall against the Mountaineers.
It’s a repeat of last year’s regional championship, which Eastern won 91-86. Eastern has lost four straight.
Qualls leads the offense with a 16.1 average, followed by Espinoza (15.4) and Connor Brooks (13.0). KCRC Radio (1390) will air both games of the doubleheader.
NOC Enid 10-3
Murray State 8-4
Carl Albert 5-8
NOC Tonkawa 1-12
NOC Tonkawa 11-2
Murray State 9-3
NOC Enid 7-6
Carl Albert 0-13