By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
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.
Plainsmen need first
top-20 win to survive
For 22 games, the Plainsmen have tried to hit the stride they thought they’d have all year.
Friday might be their last chance.
Enid (9-13) plays 6A No. 6 Broken Arrow 6:30 p.m. Friday in Bartlesville’s Region 2 bracket, and if the Plainsmen are to avoid elimination in the first round for the second straight season, they’ll have to beat a top-20 team for the first time in nine tries in 2012-13.
“We’ve talked about how, when we play well, and we put the pieces together, we can play with just about everybody we’ve played,” said Plainsmen coach Ryan Wilkinson. “We’ve just been really inconsistent.”
Meanwhile, Broken Arrow (15-6) has lost only once to a team outside the top 20 in the OKRankings.com coaches’ poll, a 60-51 upset loss to Sapulpa, 6A’s No. 31 at the time.
“They’re big,” Wilkinson said. “They don’t have one true big guy — like a 6-foot-8 guy or something — but they’re big all the way around … they’re all around 6-2, 6-3, and they’ve got a lot of big, football-type guys. They’re aggressive, they shoot a lot of threes and get a lot of offensive boards and putbacks on those.”
Several Plainsmen have taken turns as the team’s leading scorers this season as Enid’s search for a regular go-to player has continued, with Jemarcus Jackson, Correll Baker, Deon Parker, Darnae Banks and Michael Majors each posting games of 18 points or better on the year.
However, one who hasn’t hit that mark has developed into the most consistent Plainsman.
Junior Aaron Austin hasn’t hit 18 in 2012-13, but has tallied 15 or better five times and has posted double figures a team-high 12 times, twice as often as any other Enid player.
“It wasn’t surprising,” Wilkinson said. “He gets a lot of his points on offensive rebounds and steals — hustle points.”
“I’m getting more time, and learning more each and every day,” said Austin, who averages a career-best 10.75 points per game, despite not being the team’s first offensive option.
Austin has another year with the Plainsmen, but Friday’s game might be the final game for the team’s seven seniors.
“We just try to go hard in practice every single day and fix our mistakes,” Austin said. “I’ve thought about, but I’m trying not to think about it. Our last game could be Friday, so I want to have more time with my boys on the team and play like a family.”
“Every year, someone gets beat that shouldn’t have on paper,” Wilkinson said. “Why shouldn’t that be us?”
Waukomis girls vs. Seiling (6:30 p.m, Chisholm Trail Expo Center)
Well, this is familiar.
For the second season in a row, the Waukomis Lady Chiefs have to beat Seiling to advance in the Class A playoffs, with this rendition starting at 6:30 tonight at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center.
Seiling eliminated the Lady Chiefs last season in the area round, 33-27, advancing to the state tournament before losing to Chattanooga 48-38 in the first round.
Again the Lady Chiefs (19-8) are led by Alexa Harris — who has scored more than the 27 points her team was held to in its final game last season — three times on her own in 2012-13. Harris is one of three Lady Chiefs who average double figures. Her team-high 16.2 points per game are aided by Sadie Perry’s 13.2 and Kaity Kokojan’s 10.8.
Seiling (15-10) has won four of five, including runaway wins against Sentinel (63-28) and Arapaho-Butler (60-29) in the regional round at Seiling.
Waukomis had won six straight from Jan. 26-Feb. 14 before its worst loss of the season, a 72-31 loss to Class A No. 1 Okarche in the Region C final at Okeene.
Chisholm girls at
Perkins-Tryon (6:30 p.m.)
Chisholm (13-10) has won five of seven games, mostly behind sophomore sensation Megan Galusha (16.3 points per game) and fellow underclassmen Faith Mirelez (7.5) and Kammi Gruber (7.4), but Class 3A No. 2 Perkins-Tryon has its own streak to protect.
And it’s lasted all season.
Perkins-Tryon (23-0), a semifinalist in last season’s 4A girls state tournament, has run roughshod through its 2012-13 3A schedule, beating opponents by an average of 25.2 points a game, including a 44-18 win against District 4 finals host Perry on Friday.
A loss wouldn’t be the end for Chisholm or Perkins-Tryon should the Lady Longhorns pull the upset. The loser plays 6:30 p.m. Friday in a consolation bracket elimination game against the winner of Morris-Nowata, and the winner secures an area berth and plays for the Region A final at 8:30 p.m. against either Oklahoma Christian or Kellyville.
Pioneer boys vs. Christian Heritage (3 p.m. at Morrison)
The Mustangs (12-12) weren’t short on momentum, winning 10 of 13 before being defeated in a Feb. 16 district final loss to Alva, when Pioneer scored a season-low 12 points in a 28-12 defeat.
Still, Pioneer has won 10 of 14, 12 of 18 since 6-foot-8 sophomore Colby Koontz’s return, while Thursday opponent Christian Heritage, (11-11) has lost four of seven, beating Depew 63-53 to clinch a regional berth, but losing to Crescent 51-36 in the 2A District 3 final.
A win would give the Mustangs a practical home-court advantage all the way to the area round, playing at Chisholm, starting with an 8 p.m. Friday tilt with the loser of Thursday’s Hooker-Pawnee winners bracket opener.
Chisholm boys vs. Perry (3 p.m. at Perkins-Tryon)
The Chisholm Longhorns have split a pair of games with Perry (12-11) this season, but the rubber match at 3 p.m. today in Perkins will decide who gets to play again this season.
Chisholm (7-17) lost to the Maroons 58-52 in the Wheat Capital Tournament before winning 54-50 just 10 days later.
Perry has lost three of four entering the elimination tiebreaker, including a 58-43 loss to Perkins-Tryon in the District 4 final at Perry.
OBA boys vs. Snyder
(3 p.m. at Minco)
When February started, Snyder was 11-8 and riding a four-game win streak into its final regular-season stretch.
Now, the Cyclones are on a four-game losing streak that Oklahoma Bible Academy will advance to a consolation semifinal by extending to five.
OBA (10-14) has lost six of its last eight, most recently against Fairview, 63-50 Saturday in the Class 2 A District 1 final.
(Note: For the complete playoff schedule involving area and local teams, see Page B2).