BURLINGTON, Okla. — Burlington’s girls hope to put history aside today when the 26-4 and No. 7-ranked Lady Elks face No. 3 Hammon (24-6) at 3:30 p.m. in the first round of the Class B state tournament at Yukon High School.
The Lady Elks are going to state for a school record fifth-straight time, but are trying to break a streak of four straight losses in the first round.
“It’s really a privilege to be there,’’ said Burlington head coach Kirsten Pruett, who is 238-139 in 15 seasons on the job. “They put in a lot of hard work to get there. Everybody down there is good. It’s one of those deals where you give it your best shot. If you win, you take it. If you lose, you just got beat by a better team.’’
The Lady Elks returned four starters from last year’s 22-9 team and might have put more pressure on themselves to make a return trip, Pruett said.
Burlington showed its fiery personality when the Lady Elks came back from a 64-44 loss to No. 2 Varnum in the area winners bracket finals at Stroud to beat Webbers Falls, 65-44 in the losers bracket finals. It was the fourth straight year Burlington had come back from a loss in the winners bracket finals to reach state.
“It hurt their pride more than anything,’’ Pruett said. “They came out firing and said this isn’t how it’s going to end. They used it to fuel their fire instead of being let down. We talked about that on Sunday — do you just want to curl up and say we gave it our way or are you going to come back screaming and clawing.’’
Pruett said tradition has fueled the Burlington success.
“One thing about the kids at Burlington is that they will work their tails off for you,’’ she said. “They will do everything you ask them to do. They won’t let you down. They approach it as they don’t want to let each other down or this community down.’’
The returning players embraced freshman Kayla Highfill, who has averaged 15.2 points a game in the postseason.
“They have accepted her and took her under their wing,’’ Pruett said. “They knew that she was pretty uptight and nervous about her first big playoff series. They talked to her about it and calmed her down.’’
The Lady Elks have been balanced during the postseason with four players — Highfill (18), Stephanie Croft (17), Anna Motycka (13) and Caitlin Flackman (11) in double figures against Webbers Falls. Flackman is averaging a team-best 13 points in the playoffs.
Croft, a four-year starter, has come into her own as a senior.
“Until this year, I don’t want to say she hid, but she just did the dirty work,’’ Pruett said. “She has stepped up offensively this year. She had a big game Monday, not just point wise but with steals and rebounds. Caitlin has always been steady for us.’’
Motycka wasn’t cleared to play until after Christmas because of a kidney condition.
“We weren’t sure she was going to get to play,’’ Pruett said. “She took advantage of that opportunity. She really unleashed a steam of energy.’’
Hammon will be a “good challenge,’’ Pruett said.
The Warriors have won six straight, including a 46-26 decision over No. 8 Duke in the area finals. Their losses have come to No. 5 Class B Leedey, 40-35; No. 5 Class A Vici, 44-42; No. 5 4A Perkins-Tryon, 48-43; No. 1 Class A Seiling, 72-48 and 54-44 and No. 5 Class A Canute, 59-47.
Hammon runs a four-guard offense with one post. They are quick and shoot the ball well.
“From what I can tell, they play pretty well together,’’ Pruett said. “They are pretty balance. They pick up where they left off when they have a girl come off the bench. They have been there before. They will be relaxed and focused as we are.’’
Pruett said the two teams match up well. The Lady Elks will have to avoid the bad start they had against Varnum (14-3).
“You can’t dig a hole that you can’t climb out of,’’ Pruett said. “If you do that, you can’t quite get over the hump because you would have run out of gas. They don’t have a lot of height. Varnum had two six-footers and we struggled with that. I’ve had worst matchups.’’
The Burlington-Hammon winner faces the Sasakwa (23-3) and Leedey (20-11) winner at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the State Fair Arena. The other side of the bracket has Varnum (26-3) against Granite (20-10) at 2 p.m. and Red Oak (22-8) and Forgan (18-8) at 7. Those winners play at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The championship is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
All of Burlington’s games can be heard on KNID (107.1 FM).