By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s women’s basketball team started the season ranked No. 9 in the preseason National Junior College Athletic Association basketball poll.
However, thanks to a rash of injuries and a tough schedule, the Lady Jets went into Christmas break unranked.
Spirits were high Tuesday, though, when the Lady Jets officially returned from break.
NOC Enid (11-4) won its last five games before the holidays, including avenging an earlier loss to Cowley County (Kan.). Sophomore Tory Dwyer has been cleared to play after missing the first half with heart issues.
“We hope we can continue with that momentum,’’ said NOC Enid head coach Scott Morris. “All of our bumps and bruises have gotten better. Junior colleges have time to regroup.’’
The Lady Jets haven’t played since their 64-56 win over Cowley on Dec. 8.
“It’s like two separate seasons,’’ Morris said. “There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages. All of our opponents are in the same boat. We choose to enjoy the advantages. We did have nice, long break.’’
The break was welcomed after an intense first half. Trips to New Mexico and Texas gave the Lady Jets a chance to go against top competition, but the travel had its effects, mentally and physically.
“We don’t mind the tough schedule, but the travel we had to go through wore us out as much as anything,’’ Morris said. “I would like to keep the tough schedule, but with some home games thrown in there where we’re not spending half of November in hotels.’’
The Lady Jets lost sophomore Sherri Lang and redshirt freshman Shelby Layn to ACL injuries. Freshman guard Jordan Garner is expected to redshirt because of a severe concussion.
Freshman Kati Sullivan battled injuries. Star center Marisha Wallace missed a game because of stomach flu.
“We had some adversity, but we finished strong,’’ Morris said. “I’m extremely proud of them, and I’m optimistic about where we could go. Right now we want to get them back in shape, and get back in chemistry with each other.’’
The Lady Jets were just a point out of the top 25 in the last rankings. They are the second highest-ranked team in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference behind No. 19 Redlands, which beat NOC Enid 72-57 on Nov. 19.
NOC Enid will face rival NOC Tonkawa Monday at home and will visit current league leader Eastern on Jan. 10.
“We’ll have some tough tests right off the bat,’’ Morris said. “We’ll be fine. The tough schedule was a good experience for us. We got better by playing tougher people. I think it will pay off in the long run. It already has paid off.’’
Wallace, who has signed with Oklahoma State, has had a dominant first half, averaging 21.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Chelsea Bates, the team’s other returning starter, is averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 assists.
“They have been carrying a big part of the load,’’ Morris said. “I expected them to carry that.’’
Christa Beasler, who missed last season because of an ACL, is averaging 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game. She had a season-high 16 points in the Lady Jets’ victory over defending regional champion Northeastern A&M 56-52 on Nov. 27 with Wallace out.
“She has been outstanding,’’ Morris said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of her.’’
Dwyer’s addition will give the Lady Jets some more depth.
The Lady Jets have heavily counted on freshmen who have been going through some growing pains.
However, the contributions have been solid, Morris said.
Sullivan is averaging 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds. Shannon Hough is averaging 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds. Alva’s Rylie Swanson is averaging 8.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. Paige Eaton is averaging 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds. Fairview’s Kori Fast is averaging 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds.
Swanson has had seven games in double figures. Hough has had two 18-point games. Eaton had a season-high 13 against NEO. Sullivan had 13 against Western Texas and 12 against Southeast Nebraska.
“They are coming along well,’’ Morris said. “They are getting a lot of experience, and they are doing a good job of adjusting (to the college game) and picking up the slack. They have been real inconsistent at times, but every team we play has got the same struggles (with freshmen). We’re trying to reel it in and master the fundamentals.’’
Two local products — Rani Melvin and Regan Crowl also havecontributed. Crowl had 18 points in a 83-53 win over Ecclessia on Nov. 10. Melvin, an All-Stater two years ago at Enid, was recruited when injuries decimated the Lady Jets’ numbers. She had 18 points against Bethel JV on Nov. 23.