By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Reaching a Class A regional tournament may not seem a big deal to a lot of programs, but it is if if you haven’t been there since 2007.
Such is the case for Covington-Douglas’ girls (7-17), which face Strother (5-20) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in a Class A losers bracket quarterfinal game at Davenport.
“It’s huge,’’ said Lady Wildcats coach Brady Maxwell, who spent 15 minutes explaining the playoff process to his team last week.
“Our junior high girls will see how the playoff system works and how much fun it is. It’s a huge step in the right direction. Our girls have come a long way.’’
The turning point for the Lady Wildcats might have been being eliminated from the Skeltur Conference Tournament in two games.
“We had a heart-to-heart talk after the tournament,’’ Maxwell said. “I challenged the girls about which direction they wanted to go from here. They accepted the challenge. We have played well since then.’’
Covington-Douglas has won three of its last five games, including a 31-19 win over Drummond in the district elimination game Friday. The streak started with a 61-21 win over the same Lady Bulldogs Jan. 29.
They scored 25 points in a quarter for the first time in a game in the Jan. 29 win. They also shot 53 percent from the field and held an opponent to under 30 points for the first time.
“The girls have bought into our defensive philosophy,’’ Maxwell said. “They have worked hard on it all year and it’s beginning to pay off. When you’re playing good defense, and the shots are falling, it’s a good combination.
“You can’t expect to shoot 53 percent every night, but it shows the girls they are capable of it. Like Yogi Berra said, 90 percent of the game is 50 percent mental. If you do it once, you feel you can do it again.’’
Freshman Hailey Kaiser has scored 64 points in the last four games. Maxwell calls her “Russell,’’ as in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.
“She has good speed, is a good floor leader and plays with a lot of energy,’’ Maxwell said. “She has grown up throughout the season. I don’t expect her to play like a freshman anymore. She plays only at full speed.’’
Maxwell said the Lady Wildcats picked up some additional confidence when they played most of the second half of a 40-29 win over Ringwood Feb. 5 with Kaiser on the bench with foul trouble.
Senior Baylie Kaiser, Hailey’s sister and the lone starting senior, “has put everything together and is giving us quality minutes,’’ Maxwell said.
Junior Calli Kaiser, Hailey’s and Baylie’s cousin, “might be our most improved player,’’ Maxwell said. She’s the team’s rebounding specialist and defensive stopper.
“She’s gotten more and more confidence,’’ Maxwell said. “She’s picking up her scoring.’’
Junior Jessi Parsons, the lone returning starter from last season, has become a solid rebounder and defender as well. She once had five straight games in double figures.
“She’s athletic,’’ Maxwell said. “I’ve asked her to guard perimeter players. A 6-foot girl with long arms like Jessi can present some problems.’’
Sophomore Makenzie Wicker understands her role as a post defender and screener, Maxwell said.
“She has taken to that role,’’ he said. “She realizes if she does her job, the other scorers will get their looks. Night in and night out, she’s been as consistent as anyone.’’
Senior Kayla Anglemyer, the sixth woman, “has come a long way,’’ Maxwell said. She is an adept three-point shooter and tied the district final with Davenport at 20-20 on an NBA-like three.
Maxwell expects some nerves Thursday since none of his players have been to a regional before.
“They will be doing some things for the first time,’’ Maxwell said. “I think they will reach the point where they know the game is theirs to go win or lose. If the nerves give way to adrenaline and that gives way to energy, everything will work in our favor.’’
Strother lost to Stonewall 70-15 in its district final after beating Bowlegs 65-42 the night before. They had lost four straight before the postseason.
“I think we have a good chance to win if we play like we have the last two weeks,’’ Maxwell said. “If we win, it would put us in the top 46 in Class A (among 96 teams) which is what we’re striving for.’’
Just the extra practice time this week is beneficial, Maxwell said.
Maxwell is taking three junior high players to help keep stats and film.
“This is building for the future,’’ Maxwell said. “They will see how it works and how much fun it can be. This group can be a trailblazer for things to come.’’