By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Drummond coach Curtis Foster is going to be a little torn when his Bulldogs face Skeltur Conference rival Pond Creek-Hunter at 3 p.m. Thursday in a Class A Area II losers bracket quarterfinal at Stroud.
Panthers coach Darin Jones was “very instrumental’’ in getting Foster film and information on teams that Drummond played in its regional last week.
“He called me every day to check in with me to see how he could help me,’’ Foster said. “He’s been a very good person about helping me. I hate to play him of all people.
“I really appreciate what he has done for us to get us in a position that we’re in. We might not be here if it wasn’t for him. It’s a Catch-22 situation.’’
The Bulldogs (24-5) are in the area tournament for the first time since 2003. They had reached the area losers bracket quarterfinals in 1995.
Drummond, with a win, would go farther than any Bulldog team has in recent memory.
“We’re excited about it,’’ Foster said. “It’s new for these kids to have gone this far.’’
Drummond lost to Strother 73-53 in the regional winners bracket semifinals Thursday, but came back to beat Riverfield Country Day School 76-56 and Stonewall 57-46 to stay alive.
Now that Drummond has reached one goal (area), expectations have risen.
“That’s a whole new topic,’’ Foster said. “When you get to area, you have a chance to fight to go to state. You have as good as chance as anyone. Fight through this one and you’re there.’’
Foster actually hopes his team is a little nervous about it.
“That tells me they will have a little more energy than if they’re just taking it as just another game,’’ Foster said. “You want them to enjoy the excitement of going to area.’’
Pond Creek-Hunter (21-6) lost to Velma-Alma 45-41 in its regional final.
The two teams split in the regular season. The Bulldogs beat Pond Creek-Hunter 53-51 in the third-place game of the Skeltur Tournament, only to lose to the Panthers six days later 61-53 for the Skeltur regular season title.
“We’re just living to survive and go on to the next round,’’ said Foster about the third meeting. “It’s not so much for bragging rights as it is to live another day.’’
The Bulldogs big three — Brady Kokojan (17 and 14), Parker Jankey (15 and 17) and Zak Wilson (15 and 16) all had good scoring days in the two games.
T.J. Krittenbrink had 33 points in the two games for the Panthers, including 20 in the Pond Creek-Hunter win. Mac Styles, held to six in the first meeting, had 16 the second.
“I think it will be a little harder to prepare for them,’’ Foster said. “We know each other so well. We won’t run anything that will surprise them. It might end up being one of those grind-them-up games where every bucket comes at a premium and getting two or three baskets in a row will be even harder.’’
Foster compared it to the Enid-Stillwater series when he played for the Plainsmen.
“We would be averaging 80 points a game, but it would be like a 32-30 game when we played them,’’ Foster said.
Foster said the Bulldogs will need scoring help from a fourth or fifth player. Cody Welch had 10 points against Stonewall Saturday and has been an effective rebounder.
“The more kids who contribute, the merrier,’’ Foster said. “If we can get somebody to come off the bench to get a basket or two, we’ll have a chance. We’re going to have to get their big bodies off us.’’
Drummond has been eliminated in the regional losers semifinals the past two years and the first round in 2010.
“We have done a lot of things right,’’ Foster said. “We have worked hard to get where we’re at. Everybody has been saying this might be the best single season in Drummond history.’’
Foster sees the success of having long-term value. More players have been coming out for the team.
“They’re getting a chance to see how hard work pays off,’’ Foster said.
What makes Foster happiest is seeing the reaction of elementary school kids.
“It’s a lot different in a small school,’’ Foster said. “Those kids walk the same hallways. Our kids have a big influence on them. I hope this continues to build up.’’
The Drummond/Pond Creek-Hunter winner will face the Agra-Strother winner at 3 p.m. Friday. That survivor plays the Velma-Alma/Glencoe loser at 8 p.m. Saturday for a state tournament berth.