By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
As the Plainsmen ready for their first tournament of the season, the UKB Tahlequah Tiger Invitational Thursday through Saturday, Enid head coach Ryan Wilkinson still is stewing on a week-old loss to El Reno.
“We definitely have to play better than that,” he said of the Plainsmen’s 56-49 season-opening defeat. “We weren’t happy with the way we played, and we know we have to play better.”
The Plainsmen fell behind early when starters Jemarcus Jackson, Aaron Austin and Correll Baker each were whistled for their second fouls before the second quarter. Jackson led an Enid rally, finishing with 21 points as the Plainsmen closed within three points in the third quarter, but never came closer.
“(Foul trouble) was definitely a problem early,” Wilkinson said. “We had our chances late, but we didn’t capitalize on a lot of posessions, turned the ball over a lot of times in key situations, and we need to eliminate that.”
The only way to improve in those decisive stretches is to be in them, Wilkinson said.
“These guys weren’t on the floor a lot of times in those key situations,” he said. “It’s something they have to learn how to take care of — embrace that role that they didn’t have last year.”
Getting a chance to close a game late isn’t the only opportunity Wilkinson hopes his group will have in Tahlequah. For a group that has never played as many minutes together as they will this season, the getaway could mean a tighter bond between players.
“The guys get a chance to bond,” Wilkinson said. “I think you grow as a team just because of the time that those guys get away from basketball together.”
Enid opens against Coweta at 5:30 p.m. today in a bracket that also includes Moore, Sand Springs, Tahlequah, Sapulpa, Soyla and Muskogee.
“This is a tournament that if we play up to our potential, we have a chance to win a lot of games and maybe even play for a championship,” Wilkinson said.
Pacers look to perfect Coach’s homecoming
If the Pacers need any more motivation than winning their first tournament of 2012-13, the 22nd Annual Lady Bulldog Classic in Altus, coach Robb Mills has it.
“That’s where I’m from,” he said. “It’s my hometown, and it’s a chance for me to, you know, go back and see my family. Plus, we have a lot to proove there. Last year, we lost in the finals to Altus, which we’ve talked about as a team, we were really disappointed. Especially me. I wanted to win in my hometown.”
Standing in the way is
an eight-team field that includes Altus, Iowa
Park, Lawton-MacArthur, Witchita Falls, Cache, Lawton-Eisenhower and Northwest Claussen, which Enid opens against at 3:30 p.m. today. The tournament is winnable, Mills said, good news to the ears of a Pacer team that last lost in an in-season tournament when they were eliminated from state contention in last season’s opening round.
“Any time you’re in a tournament, you want to win it,” Mills said. “This summer, we played in two tournaments and we came up short in both of them in the championship. I’m not trying to say that’s where we’re going to be, but that’s our goal.”
The other goal, of course, is making the trip a productive one off the court as well as on.
“It’s a chance for our team to get away,” Mills said. “We have team bonding and team chemistry (to work on). Some of the pressures go away a little bit, and we just kind of relax and play.”