ENID, Okla. —
Being a botched second-half lead and a turnover-plagued fourth quarter from accomplishing a season-long goal has a way of leaving an impression.
“The biggest lesson is how hard (tournament season) is,” said Enid girls basketball coach Robb Mills, whose team lost a shot at a postseason run in a 49-41 defeat to Bartlesville last season. “You take it for granted. You’re rank-ed pretty well, but how hard it is to win that one game, because everybody wants it, and everybody is out to get it. They wanted it just as bad as we did — and we wanted it, we played our hearts out — we just came up short.”
Coming up short was a rare experience for the Pacers, who won 16 games — six of them consecutively to end the regular season — before dropping their first playoff game.
“We had a chance to win, but they played better than us,” Mills said. “It was a disappointment for us. That was our goal, to get past the first game and give ourselves a chance, and that will be our goal again.”
In 2012-13, that goal is well within reach.
Four starters return from last year’s 16-8 team, including Courtney Chelf, the Pacers’ top scorer each year since her freshman campaign, most recently with 19.8 points per game last season.
“This will be her fourth year to start for us, and she’s going to to be the catalyst on our team,” said Mills of the team’s only starting senior. “She’s been working on her game, and she’s not letting up in practice, competing in every drill. I really feel like she’s preparing herself for a really good senior season.
“She’s improved her rebounding, she’s improved her defense, she’s improved her passing ability, so while she’s still the scorer that she has been and always will be, she’s continuing to work on her game as any athlete in her position would want to do, and I’m really looking forward to watching her play.”
“I played a lot of basketball this year on my traveling team, and I think my defense improved,” Chelf said.
Junior forwards Abby Lee and Grace Enmeier will reprise their starting roles, as will sophomore Haven Bay. Newcomer, forward Andi Pierce, likely will round out the Pacers’ starting five.
“The big thing that I like about Andi is that she has really good court awareness,” Mills said. “She handles the ball well with both hands, and she dribbles the ball with her head up, so it’s good for getting the ball in the right place.”
Mills’ hope for a trip to the playoffs’ double-elimination rounds essentially has become the company line.
“We want to get past that first round of the playoffs,” said Lee, the Pacers’ top returning rebounder from a season ago who hopes to improve her 8.4 boards a game to 10 in 2012-13.
“(We) made it to state my sophomore year,” Chelf said. “I’d like to do that again because I feel like we have a lot more players returning. I think we can do it this year.”
EL RENO at ENID
Tip off: Girls 6:30 p.m.; Boys 8 p.m.
Location: Mabee Center
Radio: KGWA (960 AM)