By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
DCLA 28, Burlington 22.
That score from last year’s Class B Area III losers bracket finals has stuck with the losing Lady Elks over the past year.
“We missed going to the state tournament by six points, that’s something we have talked about all year,’’ said Burlington coach Kristen Pruett
“It’s been one of the sources of our motivation. Hopefully, they will remember what it felt like to miss it by that much and it will motivate them even more.’’
For the third straight year, the Lady Elks (23-5) are in the area losers bracket. Burlington faces Bluejacket (16-7), the first of three roadblocks to state, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Cleveland.
“Anytime you’re in the losers bracket, there’s a sense of urgency,’’ Pruett said. “You get beat, you’re done. It’s a matter of stepping up and doing it.’’
It’s even more urgent when your two leaders — Tiffany Rieger and Katelyn Garvie — are seniors. If Burlington loses, their careers are over.
Rieger and Garvie helped revive a program that hadn’t been to the area for 12 years until the 2010-11 season.
“They have worked so hard,’’ Pruett said. “They have been such good leaders. You want them to get there (state).’’
Rieger has been a prolific scorer for four seasons, raising her average from 23.1 to 27 points this season.
“Tiffany is Tiffany,’’ Pruett said. “You don’t have to worry about her. She’ll play hard from buzzer to buzzer.’’
Katelyn Garvie’s worth to the team goes beyond her 10 point average.
“She’s the glue to everything that we do,’’ Pruett said. “She’s our unquestioned leader on the floor. She’s the one that runs the offense and pulls everything together. If Katelyn Garvie is off the floor, you can sure tell it.’’
Freshman guard Sarah Garvie, Katelyn’s younger sister, has not only taken some scoring (11.0 ppg) pressure off the seniors, but has been an outstanding defensive player, Pruett said.
“Defense is always going to be the key for us,’’ Pruett said. “Before every game, I tell the kids we’re going to have to play defense and rebound. I’m sure they are tired of hearing it.’’
The addition of Sarah Garvie has given the Lady Elks additional quickness.
“Our defense has improved this year because of that,’’ Pruett said.
Heather Armbruster, a 5-5 junior guard-forward, “has been one of those kids who understands her role and never complains.’’
Ditto for the Nall sisters — 5-6 junior center Makayla and 5-6 sophomore center Savanna “who are two tough kids who have a nose for the ball.’’
Bluejacket lost to Coyle 73-31 in the regional semifinals, but came back to beat Oilton 47-39 and Asher 53-38 in the losers bracket to stay alive.
“They like to shoot the ball and play at a fast pace,’’ Pruett said. “There’s not any of them that are afraid to put it up.’’
Bluejacket is led by 5-foot-10 senior Samantha Williams (17.0), who can shoot from 3-point range and handles the ball well, and 5-7 junior Harley Henson (15.4), a 3-point shooter (37 of 125).
The winner will play the Coyle-Copan winner at 1:30 p.m. That survivor plays the DCLA-Timberlake loser at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for a state berth.
“We got to win this one first,’’ Pruett said.
Pruett said it will benefit the Lady Elks having played three games last year at area. If Burlington wins Thursday, it will spend the night. However, if they win Friday, they will go home so they can sleep in their own beds, Pruett said.
“It’s not a bad drive to Cleveland,’’ Pruett said.
The Lady Elks lost to DCLA 42-31 in the regional final at Cushing Saturday. Burlington had beaten the Lady Eagles 55-40 on Jan. 14. The Lady Elks have split with Timberlake, winning 53-50 at the Cherokee Strip Tournament and losing at Helena, 52-45 Feb. 1.
“We flat out got beat,’’ Pruett said. “DCLA is playing really well right now, but we could have played a lot better. We made a lot of mistakes. A lot of things that we prepared for, we didn’t execute.’’