Phoenix Staff Reports
This is the regional tournament that simply will not end for the Vian Lady Wolverines.
For the second consecutive day — and third since the tournament was scheduled to start last Thursday — Vian watched a game be postponed.
It’s been Vian (13-8) and Newkirk the past two days. Newkirk (13-11) is unable to travel and out of school due to the latest winter blast, and what was supposed to be played at Muskogee Civic Center, then Verdigris, is now set for another shot at 1 p.m. today at Verdigris.
The first winter storm blew the whistle on Thursday’s first-round matchups, which were instead played Friday.
“We’re just going by what they’re telling us at the OSSAA,” Vian coach John Mays said Tuesday night. “I don’t get it. I think we should have played on time last week and I was just talking to Jeff Walker over at Stigler and they had to drive from Stigler to Sperry and had no trouble on Thursday. I just think somehow it was possible to make it happen as it should have because now, it poses the possibility of affecting not only us but an entire area tournament.”
The winner of Vian-Newkirk is to play at the 3A regional at Fort Gibson on Thursday and will at this point, to get to state, have to play four games in four days. Both teams are unranked.
“I don’t think that’s fair because we haven’t done anything wrong,” Mays said. “Plus the girls get pumped for a game day and then get deflated and it deflates practice.”
Joehanna Morris, a senior on the squad, agreed practice hasn’t been as focused as it should.
“Usually on a game day we come in and go over plays at 8 a.m. and sleep in an hour as opposed to the 7 a.m. starts,” she said. “So since we’re thinking game day and don’t find out until we get to practice, it just is nerve-wracking. We’re antsy to play and it’s especially hard for some of our younger girls. It shuts you down a little.”
Should today’s game be postponed, it might be a blessing in disguise for Vian. OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley said if the game isn’t played, then it would tip off on Thursday and the area tournament, as has been the case among some Class A and B area tourneys, would be moved to Friday, Saturday and Monday.
At least then, Vian would get a break in the four-day run.
3A No. 8 Sequoyah (18-8) faced a similar situation, having its regional opener postponed a day last Thursday and had to finish on Monday, defeating Henryetta 63-49.
It brought about a Sunday practice for starters and by winning, avoided another scheduling hardship.
“The day after a game is a lighter day so we can get our legs back then we’ll practice hard tomorrow and Thursday,” he said. “Thankfully by winning we avoided having to play three games starting Thursday and not having that extra day in between practice and going on to area.”
Sequoyah will certainly get those legs challenged against No. 1 and defending 3A champion Oklahoma Centennial (17-7) at 8 p.m. Friday at Sand Springs.
“We’ll have to run some things we haven’t run because with the intensity of their man-to-man defense and their hard-nose drive to the basket style (on offense) we won’t have much success if we’re not in constant movement with back cuts, screens, and some other things. We just can’t go out there and stand still.”
Oktaha coach Jim Glover knows his Tigers have to travel a difficult road after losing its regional final to Talihina last week.
The 2A No. 6 Tigers play No. 11 Rattan on Thursday at Wilburton as half of a treacherous consolation bracket.
“We have the 6, 11, 10 (Wewoka) and 4 (Haworth), and only one of those are going to get to play on Saturday (in the consolation final against either unranked Talihina or No. 17 Preston),” he said. “Any way you cut it it’s a tough road to win three and get to where you want to go.”
Talihina in its second overtime game of the regional knocked off Oktaha 60-52. The foul count was 24-9 against the Tigers who had three starters foul out.
“I’m not going to say anything about the officiating but it’s like I told my kids, you got to put that behind you,” he said. “We did enough to ourselves anyway. We missed three layups in the first quarter, a couple of easy putbacks in the fourth even when we had the lead. Instead of making excuses we need to go in search for answers.”
Not a cakewalk
Oktaha’s girls didn’t have that fate. The 2A No. 8 Lady Tigers (26-1) won their 14th consecutive game, to play No. 7 Colbert (24-4) at Wilburton.
Not that it’s a cakewalk now.
“We need one win to get to state but Colbert is very good and they beat (No. 13) Preston in their regional and I think Preston will get back to Saturday night,” he said. “We’re going to have to play extremely well for four quarters to stay in the game.”
Colbert, he said, presents some matchup problems the Lady Tigers haven’t been used to.
“They have lots of speed, lots of size and when you’re outmanned at every spot like we’ll be, we have to play smart,” he said.
“Regardless of what happens, this team is one I’m extremely proud of. They went way beyond what I thought they would and you want to get to a point of playing to go to state and that’s all I could ask for from this group. They’ve met my expectation. Anything else is icing on the cake.”
Lady Tigers tuning
4A No. 2 Fort Gibson (25-0) is sitting where it is accustomed to sitting, in an area final where the Lady Tigers await Friday’s matchup with No. 6 Byng (25-3).
The Lady Tigers were sluggish in defeating Inola 55-44 in Saturday’s regional final at Harrison Fieldhouse. Coach Jerry Walker has been busy getting his offense in sync and his defense ready for a test in athleticism.
“Offensively it’s just been cleaning things up and getting us where everyone is on the same page where we’re not out of pocket on our sets which was the biggest problem Saturday,” he said. “What we’re seeing from Byng offensively concerns me. They’re very athletic and they’ll take off from the dribble and get to the rim on you. We have to pressure them and keep the ball out of the lane all the while not letting them get looks from outside. They do both very well.”
The deep backdrop at Muskogee Civic Center, site of Friday’s 6:30 tipoff, gives some teams problems. Walker isn’t concerned.
“We’ve shot the ball pretty well when we’ve gone there for area before,” he said. “We’ve kind of got the same open area behind our baskets but I know teams go in there who aren’t used to it and struggle to adjust.”