ENID, Okla. —
A week ago, the Enid Pacers were on top of the world — ranked No. 7 in 6A, anyway — and entering their final three games of the regular season with a week of rest thanks to a snowed-out senior night game against rival Stillwater and the wind at their back after seven wins in eight tries.
Then, Enid lost two of three, the one win coming 49-41 against Lawton, a team the Pacers thumped 51-32 on Dec. 15. A loss in their next game, 6:30 tonight against Mustang in Tulsa Washington’s Region 2 bracket, would mean the end of the Pacers’ season.
Last season, an equally successful regular season leading to an equally hopeful postseason, ended with a surprising first-round exit after a 49-41 loss to Bartlesville.
“Sure, it’s a worry of mine,” said Pacers coach Robb Mills. “It’s all in the back of our heads, but as a collective unit, we’ve got to regroup.”
More similarities between last season’s final game and the Pacers’ next one don’t help ease the concern. Like last season, Enid (17-5) is favored to advance past its
first-round elimination game. Bartlesville was a pedestrian 13-7 before ending Enid’s 2011-12 season, and Mustang is 6A’s No. 20 team, despite stumbling to a10-12 record.
The parallels are present. Then again, it seems, so is a newfound awareness of them.
“I think they (the Pacers) just know that they don’t want to go through that again,” said Courtney Chelf, one of two seniors and the Pacers’ only four-year starter. “We haven’t really talked too much about it, but I’m sure we will. I don’t want it to happen again.”
“I tried to remind them and showed them some film of games where we really played our best and what we’re capable of,” Mills said. “It happens in sports. People get upset. People don’t play well. We haven’t had a lot of games this season that we really just laid an egg and played bad. It just happened to be right now. What do you do with it? You get up. You get back up.”
In Enid’s favor, the Pacers are back at full strength after the surprising return of freshman starter Andi Pierce, who missed six games from Jan. 24-Feb. 12 with injuries to her shooting-side shoulder and upper arm that were first thought to be season-ending.
“It’s pretty good,” said Pierce, who scored a career-high-tying 13 against Lawton in her return to the lineup. “It’s feeling better. A little weak.”
Mustang has won two straight, beating Putnam City West and Yukon to snap a three-game slide, but hasn’t beaten a top-10 team in 2012-13 (0-4), and is 4-10 vs. top-20 teams.
A win against the Lady Broncos would set up a Region 2 title game against the winner of an 8 p.m. semifinal between Ponca City and host Booker T. Washington at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and would guarantee the Pacers at least a consolation berth in the area round starting Feb. 28.
“I told the girls (Tuesday), ‘In this room, everyone in here has to be all in and believe that we can be as good as we can, no matter what any of the naysayers say,’” Mills said.
ENID, Okla. —
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