By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
For the HIlldale Lady Hornets, a season filled with excitement has been replaced by a little worry and a lot of renewed determination.
A loss in the playoffs has a way of doing that.
The Lady Hornets lost their Class 4A Area IV District 6 game to Inola this past Saturday, putting their season on the brink. A win Thursday and they will keep playing, three consecutive and they reach next week’s round.
But a loss ends it, much sooner than anticipated.
“That’s kind of scary and inspiring to us,” freshman guard Katie Kirkhart said. “After losing (52-42), it’s making us work harder and wanting to win more. We definitely can’t come into this game overconfident like we did in our last game.”
This game has the Lady Hornets, now 16-8 for the season, facing the Wagoner Lady Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Wagoner’s Hughes Event Center in the consolation bracket.
Even though Wagoner’s record is 3-21, Hilldale’s task isn’t an easy one. They’ve beaten the Lady Bulldogs twice and coach Scott Hensley reminds his players of the adage of how tough it is to beat a team three times in one season.
“They almost got us (41-37 on Jan. 18 at Wagoner),” he said. “If we were to lose, that would be really bad because it would stick with you for a whole year until the next season starts. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to beat Wagoner.”
Hensley admits to how bad he felt after the loss to Inola.
“I moped and pouted around all day (on Sunday) because I really wanted Hilldale to be part of winning a district championship,” he said. “But sometime during the day, I thought to myself that it was time to shut up about it. It was time to move on and look forward because if we dwelled on what has happened, we were going to lose our next game and the season would be over.”
But the Lady Hornets sound resilient. They also have incentive as a win would mean the most wins in a season since the Lady Hornets won 18 in the 1991-92 season under coach Steve Page.
“We just had a bad game (against Inola),” said junior forward Nicole Wright. “We need to come ready to play and I think we will. When we work together as a team, we do better.”
To advance to next week’s area tournament would require winning three games in three days. If it comes to that, Hensley, in his second season as head coach, is confident in his team.
“Were experienced at playing three days in a row,” he said. “We have good depth so we’re not going to wear ourselves out. We should be able to play hard and we don’t feel like we need to save anything. I’m not afraid to go up against anybody with this group of girls.”
Junior guard Julie Plunkett refuses to use the word desperate to describes her team’s feeling now.
“We need to learn from the Inola game going into the game against Wagoner,” she said. “Everybody on this team needs to be prepared and get their head in the game. We don’t want the season to end.”