Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The state tournament has been a bittersweet experience for Timberlake senior Hailey Parker.
She will have the distinction of playing in her fourth state tournament when she and her Lady Tiger teammates face Erick at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in a first-round Class B game at Southern Nazarene University.
Parker, though, has felt the agony of three straight first-round losses, including a 41-40 loss to eventual champion Erick last season.
“It was very devastating,’’ the 5-foot-11 Parker said of last year’s game. “We didn’t take care of business the first two quarters, and we didn’t play up to our potential. We weren’t fully prepared for it. We’re prepared this time. We have the mindset to get past the first round.’’
Parker fully appreciates the magnitude of making it to state four years in a row.
“I’m very, very honored,’’ Parker said. “We wanted it badly. We worked so hard. It just didn’t work out as well as we hoped it would in the past. We’re pumped. We’re hoping to get that first win against Erick.’’
Parker’s role changed for the 23-5 Lady Tigers this season. She had to take more of a leadership role after the graduation of four seniors.
Parker and fellow seniors Ami Adkisson, Haley Blewitt and Cidney Thompson are leaders both by example and vocally.
“The four of us understand what we have to do,’’ Parker said. “If one of us have a spark, all of us are going to have to have a spark. The biggest part of leadership is getting our focus on winning and taking care of business.’’
The one common ground of the four state tournament teams she’s played on is the Lady Tigers “have never quit.
“We have had a lot of close calls,’’ Parker said. “We have had some teams have good runs against us, but we never got out of control. We have always had the composure to pull it out.’’
That maturity showed in coming back from a 61-55 loss to Red Oak in the Area III winners bracket finals Friday. Parker had 20 points as the Lady Tigers punched their ticket to state by beating New Lima 60-53 in the losers bracket finals. Timberlake had beaten New Lima 57-43 the week before in the regional finals.
“We knew it was hard to beat a team twice, but we had the same deal last year when we had to beat DCLA four times,’’ Parker said. “We knew it wouldn’t be handed to us, and we couldn’t let down.’’
Parker likes a physical game and admits that gets her in foul trouble sometime.
“If teams really get aggressive with us, we’re mature enough to be physical back without getting out of control,’’ Parker said.
Parker’s offense has stepped up in the playoffs. She’s averaged 17 points a game in the regionals and area. She is shooting more from the outside than she did a year ago.
“I have a lot more confidence shooting from 15 feet,’’ she said.
Parker sees her role in the offense as getting the fast break going and keeping the intensity high. While Timberlake is known for its quickness from track, Parker keeps to a basketball mindset.
“We do a lot of running in practice,’’ she said. “We’re in better shape than most teams. We were able to get down court against New Lima before they set up their defense. We are always on our toes.’’
Adkisson, in her second year with the Lady Tigers, said Parker is “very valuable’’ because of her rebounding and being able to break a press.
“A lot of teams have to focus on her and that opens it up for us (outside shooters),’’ said Adkisson, who had 15 points against New Lima and is averaging 15.8 points in the regionals and area.
Parker said the guards have opened it up for her inside.
“They are really stepped it up with the threes,’’ she said. “We’re very difficult to guard on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see how the other guards play them.’’
Parker had to overcome an ankle injury, which slowed her down.
“You just have to get in the right mindset and play your game,’’ Parker said.
Timberlake’s losses all came against state tournament teams — two to Cherokee Strip Conference rival Burlington and two to Class A Pond Creek-Hunter as well as Red Oak. They have a win over defending state runner-up Lomega, another tournament entrant.
The lone adjustment Timberlake has to make is going to Southern Nazarene instead of Carl Albert.
And she hopes she finally get a first-round win.
“We know what it’s like,’’ she said. “We’re taking it one step at a time. We win this game and the next step is the Okarche-Burlington winner (Friday). We feel people have underestimated. We feel we have the capability of doing it.’’
Parker wants to attend Northwestern Oklahoma State where she hopes to play basketball and study physical therapy.