By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
For the first time in the 2013-14 season, the Enid Pacers are looking to bounce back from a loss.
In what arguably was the best measuring stick for the 16th-ranked Pacers so far — playing their fourth game against ranked competition, but their first against a 6A team in No. 17 Yukon — they didn’t quite stack up as well as they hoped.
“They handled it well,” said Pacers coach Robb Mills of the team’s 57-39 loss to Yukon. “There wasn’t a lot of negative talk between the girls. I do know they were disappointed, but that’s a good thing.”
“It was a hard game,” said sophomore and leading scorer Andi Pierce, who had 11 points in the loss. “But we’ve got to learn to face adversity.”
That chance comes tonight in a 7 p.m. homecoming matchup with Lawton Eisenhower.
“They’re very good,” Mills said. “They’re big … Their size is what they’re gonna try to use as an advantage against us.”
The Pacers split two games with Eisenhower last season, taking the first in the series that was separated by a total of six points.
So far in 2013-14, the Pacers have relied on Pierce, who has avoided any sophomore slump after earning a starting role as a freshman. She was a pleasant surprise as a frosh, contributing almost eight points per game on average for the Pacers last season.
As a sophomore, and with Enid in need of a regular scorer without 2012-13 senior Courtney Chelf’s 18 points a night, Pierce has nearly doubled her output, posting a team-high 14.4 points per game.
“There’s not really much of a difference,” Pierce said of her sophomore experience. “Just play ball.”
She likely will have the ball more tonight, with secondary ball handler and backup guard Kylee Vestal expected to miss the game with a knee injury.
Slow-starting Plainsmen ready to start
On paper, it’d be something in the neighborhood of a Christmas miracle, unranked, 0-5 Enid getting its first win against No. 9 Lawton Eisenhower in toinght’s 8:30 homecoming tilt.
To the Plainsmen, it seems, now is as good a time as any.
“Just because they’re one of the top teams in the state doesn’t mean we have to come out scared,” said senior guard Marcus Moore. “That’s what a lot of people’s problem is. They think (since) this is a top team, that they’re gonna automatically beat us. Some people, they already have doubts, and we can’t have that. We’ve got to have positive attitudes the whole way.”
Moore’s own attitude definitely was positive considering the circumstances for the Plainsmen, who expected to make a return this season to their winning ways of the century’s first decade, when Enid had a 20-win campaign and two 19-win runs in one five years.
Instead, the Plainsmen have seemingly been on the wrong end of every 50-50 bounce and whistle, finding more ways to lose than answers. Enid hasn’t scored 60 points yet in 2013, losing its first five games by 14 points on average despite close calls against Woodward (55-51) and Tahlequah (59-57).
“We have a whole bunch of games left,” Moore said. “Just because we’re 0-5 doesn’t mean we have to quit on ourselves. All we have to do is get five guys that are playing the same, and play every quarter. That’s our problem: We don’t start playing until we start to get down.”
That’s been a problem since before the season, said Enid head coach Ryan Wilkinson, who so far hasn’t found the remedy to the Plainsmen’s slow starts. Enid has been outscored by 36 points in the opening frame this season. If it doesn’t sound like much, consider this: Enid is down by an average of just over seven points entering the second, a severe disadvantage for a team scoring only 49.4 points per game.
Only once has Enid entered the second with a lead. Even then, when the Plainsmen led 18-13 after the first quarter of their season opener against Elk City, they gave back what eventually was a four-point lead at intermission and more with the Elks blasting past them 28-8 to start the second half.
So, what gives?
“If I had the answer to that, we would have done it already,” Wilkinson said. “We saw early on that this wasn’t a good starting team. We struggled in practice to do it, we struggled in scrimmages to do it.”
Wilkinson even resorted to starting practices with a 15-minute warmup period before practices, just like the team’s pregame routine.
“If we have to do that, then we gotta do that,” Moore said, adding another proposed wrinkle to the starts of the Plainsmen’s games: “Just say ‘This is the second half, and we’re down.’”
Better yet, it’s Enid’s sixth game, and the Plainsmen are down 0-5.
“When we get that first ‘W’, we’ll be hungry for more,” Moore said.
Now’s as good a time as any.