By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH — Sequoyah had just recorded its lowest point total of the season. The Lady Indians also missed out on a chance to qualify for the state tournament.
That was the scene at Ed Dubie Fieldhouse in Sand Springs on Friday night when Sequoyah lost to Perkins-Tryon, 56-27, in the Class 3A Area I title game.
But in the middle of a melancholy locker room, Courtney Jones spoke up.
“We took it pretty hard that we had an off night,” said Sequoyah’s 5-foot-6 senior guard. “But in the locker room after the game, I told all the girls to keep their heads up and that we had another tough game ahead of us.”
In an instant, Sequoyah wiped the slate clean and shifted its focus to Oklahoma Christian School in the area consolation finals.
And as it turned out, Jones’ speech worked to perfection.
Sequoyah came out on fire — burying six 3-pointers in the opening quarter — and eventually posted a 64-49 victory over OCS to claim a spot in the 3A state tournament.
“We had a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Jones said. “...We didn’t want our season to be over yet.”
Sequoyah is now preparing for No. 4 Adair in the opening round of the state tournament. The Lady Indians will take on the Lady Warriors at 8:30 tonight at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
One reason Sequoyah is still alive during the final week of the season is Jones’ leadership. It’s something that has been on display since her sophomore season.
“I had seniors my sophomore year, but they all got down on themselves and I had to help build the team up,” said Jones, Sequoyah’s lone senior this season. “I’ve been the oldest the past two years, and these girls follow whatever I do. So I couldn’t get down on myself a lot this year. I feel like I’ve become a great leader.”
Sequoyah coach Larry Shade relies on Jones’ command, but he also counts on her offensive ability, too.
“We rely on her scoring,” said Shade, who will be coaching his first-ever state tournament game later this week. “When we can get her open, we can pretty much count on her scoring.”
Jones is averaging 11.9 points per game, which is slightly off Audrey Ballou’s team lead of 14 points a game.
Thanks to Jones’ scoring prowess, Sequoyah is back in the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
“It feels very great to be back in the state tournament,” Jones said. “I haven’t been there since my freshman year.”
With that said, was there any pressure on Jones to get back to the state tournament before her high school career ended?
“No,” Jones said, “I had faith in my teammates, and I knew we was a good team from how far we went last year. I knew we were going to get it done.”
As for life beyond her high school career, Jones will continue on at Crowder College in Neosho, Mo.
“I’m going to be kind of sad leaving here, because this is all I’ve known,” Jones said. “But I’m ready to start something new and play college ball.”