By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
ENID, Okla. —
Before Enid even played in the 2012-13 season, coach Robb Mills had a certain set of games circled.
Now the No. 9 Pacers know why.
They enter the 2013 Bruce Gray Invitational starting tonight in Deer Creek seeded second in the eight-team field, but likely — and more importantly — a No. 5 seed in the East Regional tournament, a position that would give Enid homecourt advantage in the regional bracket’s single-elimination opener. But the spot will be much easier to lose than improve upon if the Pacers slip down the stretch.
“Early in our season, I told the girls that this would be the time to make our move,” said Mills, whose team was eliminated in its postseason opener last season, falling to host Bartlesville 49-41.
Enid sits behind probable east-region rivals No. 2 Bixby, No. 3 Bartlesville, No. 5 Booker T. Washington and No. 6 Muskogee.
“I don’t know if there’s going to be much movement there unless one of them stubs their toe,” Mills said. “I told the girls we need to just hold our spot and take care of our business.”
The Pacers may have lost their best chance to move up to the East’s top four slots with a 68-66 loss to Muskogee in the championship match of the Muskogee Shrine Tournament on Jan. 12.
But the loss — one Mills said was nonetheless well-played against a top-10 team at its home gym — remains the Pacers’ sole defeat since the team’s return from winter break, the sum of which Mills said is his team’s best stretch so far.
Enid has won five of six since in the second semester, most recently in a 58-40 drubbing of state rival Ponca City.
“They’re really understanding our team, and their roles on the team,” Mills said. “They’re starting to understand that they have to understand the details of the game and pay attention every minute of the game or it’s going to hurt us.”
The Pacers’ (11-2) chance to win a sixth game in seven tries and equal its 6-1 stretch before its late-December hiatus is against seventh-seeded Star Spencer. The Lady Bobcats are unranked in Class 4A, winning 10 of 14 games overall but none against top-20 teams.
“They’re really athletic,” Mills said. “I definitely think we should win, but we just have to make sure we play our game. They like to get up and down and force you to play their way.”
If seeds hold true at the Bruce Gray Invitational, Enid will have to play 6A No. 11 Putnam City North (8-5) in the semifinal to set up a final against host Deer Creek (14-2, No. 3 in 5A) which already has wins against the top-10 teams from Class 3A, 4A and 5A and beat 6A PC-North 52-38 on Dec. 7
“This is a tough tournament,” Mills said.
Plainsmen try to halt another slide
For the third time this season, the Plainsmen are trying to snap a losing streak of three games or more.
Enid (4-9) enters the opening round of this weekend’s Bruce Gray Invitational in Deer Creek losers of two straight, falling to rivals No. 7 Stillwater and Ponca City last week, but faces a Mustang team that, despite ranking 13th in the 6A coaches’ poll, is on its own run of bad play.
The Broncos have lost three of five games after a 76-61 win against Putnam City North on Tuesday that snapped a brief two-game losing run.
The seventh-seeded Plainsmen play in the Bruce Gray Invitational’s first round at 8:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 2 seed Mustang.