They’ve punched 17 consecutive state trips — almost all of Jenna Whiteley’s lifetime.
The lone returning starter at Fort Gibson has her hands full in that alone. But that’s not the only hill the Lady Tigers have to climb.
Scott Lowe, who was promoted from assistant when Chuck London retired from coaching this past spring, was diagnosed late this summer with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer, associated with the head and heck area, and has spent much of the fall going back and forth to the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for treatments. His participation in preparations has been at times on the peripheral.
Jerry Walker, the Hall of Famer and one time longtime architect of the Fort Gibson dynasty, returned last year in a junior high capacity. He’s stepped in to fill Lowe’s shoes when they’ve been empty so far and may begin the season as the first guy on the bench.
Wes Whiteley is also on staff.
Lowe, who has bene in and out of practice, finds himself watching practice film in Minnesota.
“They’ll upload it, I’ll watch, and Jerry and I will converse about what we like and what we don’t like,” Lowe said.
“The thing we’ve found is our philosophies kind of match. It’s almost like we’re related to each other.”
Lowe was to London as London was to Walker, trusted assistants that just seemed to always mesh.
“It really has throughout,” said Walker. “I always said when it was my team that it was coach by committee. This time around, as I tell the team, my challenge is to have the things in place Scott wants us to have in. Your challenge is to polish it up and have it ready for when he steps back in.”
But so little returning experience — not to mention losing last year’s Newcomer of the Year, Gracy Shieldnight, to Wagoner — it’ll be one of the bigger challenges.
“No doubt, we all know that and I knew it when I agreed to take over,” said Lowe. “Sometimes it’s fun like that if you can get all the kids on the same page. Right now they’ve all bought in. I believe in the girls we’ve got and I like a challenge, so let’s go after it.”
Braggs and Porum got an early start, Porum opening just last Friday. The season begins next week in earnest.
Below are team-by-team capsules.
GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW CAPSULES
Coach: Jeremy Ford, 3rd season.
Record last year: 9-12.
Returning starters: Akira Eubanks, 5-9, Sr., G (11.5 ppg), Bianca McVay, 5-7, Jr., G (8.1 ppg), Jakayla Swanson, 5-7, Jr., PG.
Keep an eye on: Malaysia Burton, 5-7, Fr., G; Emiah Sanders, 5-11, Jr., F.
The take: The Roughers broke through the district round for the first time since a three-year state run a year ago and has scoring punch back. Eubanks played just five games last season due to a knee injury.
Coach: Clif Warford, 3rd season.
Record last year: 13-9.
Returning starters: Neveah Johnson, 6-0, Sr., F (6 ppg, 7 rpg); Riley Barnoskie, 5-2, Sr., PG (6 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg). Keep an eye on: Brooklyn Ellis, 5-3, Jr., G; Catelin King, 5-6, So., G; Lexi Bourassa, 5-4, Sr., F; Tori Brown, 5-1, Sr., G; Corionna Hayes, 5-8, F, Sr.
The take: Johnson, one of two returning starters, has accepted an athletic/academic scholarship to Briar Cliff (Iowa). Her rebounding, key in 2020-21, become more important this year as new offense develops after graduation losses. Barnoskie will become the spark on offense and attacks the basket well for 5-2.
Coach: Scott Lowe, 5th season, 1st as head coach.
Record last year: 21-4, 4A finalist.
Returning starters: Jenna Whiteley, 5-6, Sr. G (8 ppg, 2 apg, 1.5 spg).
Keep an eye on: Feather TwoShields, 5-6, Sr., G (4.1 ppg); Marianne Parks (5-4, Sr., G, 1.1 ppg); Jordan Hayes, 5-7, Sr., F (1.0 ppg); Addy Whiteley, 5-5, Fr., G; Sydney Taylor, 5-9, Sr., F (sat out last year but saw significant minutes as a freshman - she’ll graduate in her third year of high school); Kenzie Snell, 6-8, Jr., G (2.5 ppg), Stephanie Hickman, 5-6, Jr., G (1.0 ppg). Linzi Foutch, 6-1, Jr., P (1.0 ppg); Heaven Frost, 5-7, Jr., F; Addy Bracken, 5-6, Fr., G; Mya Edwards, 5-9, Sr., P.
The take: Former coach Jerry Walker will fill in as needed as Lowe faces treatment for cancer in Minnesota. Lady Tigers were hit hard by graduation and one key transfer to Wagoner in Gracy Shieldnight. Jenna Whiteley is the lone returning starter but an All-Phoenix selection.
Coach: Randi Pawpa, 3rd year.
Record last year: 6-12.
Returning starters: Cambri Pawpa, 5-7, So. PG (10 ppg); Gracie Burkhartzmeyer, 5-8, So., G (9.0 ppg); Kara Bruce, 5-8, Sr., G (2 ppg); Brooklyn Austin, 5-6, So., G. Keep an eye on: Gracy Shieldnight, 6-1, So., F (10.0 ppg for Fort Gibson as Newcomer of Year); Elle Bryant, 5-7, So., G (10 ppg; Jaci Bryant, 5-7, Jr., G.
The take: May well spring up as the area’s top team with the returning freshmen duo of Pawpa and Burkhartsmeyer and the addition of Shieldnight, a transfer and starter for Fort Gibson’s state finalist team as well the Bryant girls, both transfers from Inola.
Coach: Jerry Ward, 26th year (43rd overall)
Record last year: 21-3, Class B quarterfinalist
Returning starters: Samantha Shanks, 5-8, Sr., PG (17.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.1 apg, 2.7 spg); Morgan Carter, 5-4, Sr., G (7 ppg, 2 apg, 2 spg); Cessna Kimberlin, 5-9, Sr., F (5.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg); Brooke Wyatt, 5-4, Sr., F (5.1ppg, 3.2 spg).
Keep an eye on: Anistyn Garner, 5-4, So., G (5.7 ppg); Lindsey Pierce, 5-6, Jr., F (4.4. ppg, 2 rpg); Samantha Griffin, 5-7, Jr., F); Teralynn Colston, 5-5, Fr., G; Bridgette Bear, 5-4, Fr., G.
The take: Seniors are 43-8 the last two years led by Shanks, the returning All-Phoenix Most Valuable Player.- Webbers moves to Class A.
Coach: Jim Glover.
Record last year: 5-12.
Returning starters: Emma Waller, 5-6, Jr., G (13.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 4.6 apg); Bailey Todd, 5-4, Sr., G (2.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg; Jaicee Lester, 5-0, Jr., G (3.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.2 apg); Chloe Floyd, 5-3, Sr., G (6.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.7 spg).
Keep an eye on: Aiyana Brewer, 5-10, Fr., F; Hailey Prince, 5-10, Fr., P; Ruby Folkner, 5-6, Fr., G; Ruthy Folkner, 5-6, Fr., G; Sydney Hamilton, 5-9, Fr., F; Jazilyn Atkins, 5-5, Fr., G.
Coach: Nick Yarbrough, 1st year.
Record last year: 5-9.
Returning starters: Allie Anderson, 5-6, SO., PG (10 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.7 apg); Kylie Diaz, 5-9, Sr., SG (4.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 2.5 apg). Jordas McLish, 5-7, So., SF (4.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.6 apg); McKenzie Crawley, 5-7, Sr., PF (5.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 apg), Mykah Osborne, 5-11, Sr., C (8.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.3 apg). Keep an eye on: Kaylee Martin, 5-10, P, Fr.
The take: Nine players return, five starters for Yarbrough to inherit.
Coach: Mindi Peters, 9th year.
Record last year: 13-8.
Returning starters: Alexis Fowler, 5-7, So., G (12.3 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg); Harlie Chesser, 5-6, So., G (8.9 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg, 3 spg); Kaylen Park, 5-6, So., G (8.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg, 2 spg); Mattie Berry, 5-9, Sr., F (4.5 ppg, 3 rpg); Chloe Bishop, 5-2, Sr., G (2 ppg, 2 rpg).
Keep an eye on: Jordan Jackson, 5-4, Fr., G; Tyla Fullbright, 5-6, Jr., G.
The take: All-Phoenix post Jaylee Kindred graduated with her 17.2 scoring average, so the Lady Eagles will be a guard-heavy offense which will wear down teams with their up-tempo pace.
Coach: Kia Holmes, 5th year.
Record last year: 13-8.
Returning starters: Rylee Walters, 6-0, Sr., C (10 ppg, 9 rpg); Ava Scott, 5-9, So., SG (13 ppg, 6 rpg); Bekah Bunch, 5-11, Jr., F (7 ppg, 4 rpg).
Keep an eye on: Ryleigh Bacon, 5-10, So., F (7 rpg, 2 spg); Brynna Rodden, 5-4, So., G (3 ppg); Gracie Harjo, 5-5, So., G (3 ppg).
The take: If you see a bunch of girls who played fastpitch, you’re on target. Scott is a returning All-Phoenix player.
Coach: Kruz Lynch, 2nd year.
Record last year: 14-6.
Returning starters: Charmayne Marshall, 5-10, Sr., G (12.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 spg); Brittany Welch, 5-7, Sr., G (13 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 spg); Aareonya Moore, 5-7, Sr., F (6 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 spg); Raylee Allison, 5-7,. Jr., G (11 ppg).
Keep an eye on: Kelsey Kilgore, 5-7, So., F (2 ppg, 2 rpg); Lauren Lindell, 5-5, So., G; Kassidy Pickard, 5-5, Fr., G.
The take: Porter drops to Class A this year with six of their eight top players from a year ago coming off a three-point loss in a regional elimination game. Marshall and Welch have both signed, Marshall, an All-Phoenix selection last year, is signing with Northwestern Oklahoma.
Coach: Kyle Ward, 1st year HC, 19th season at school.
Record last year: 6-8.
Returning starters: Lynzi Kelley, 5-5, Jr., PG; RayLin Morgan, 5-9, So., C; Saylor Brown, 5-8, So., P; Kaydence Bowman, 5-7, Sr.
Keep an eye on: Hailey Tucker, 5-5, Sr.; Brilee Boutwell, 5-4, Jr.; Mariah Arterberry, 5-5, Jr.; Kaylee Boutwell, 5-6 So.; Hayden Ward, 5-4, Fr.; Riley Westmoreland, 5-9, Fr.
The take: Ward takes over a program that has just two seniors and will go up tempo.
Coach: Justin Hendrix, 4th year.
Record last year: 0-12.
Returning starters: Damara Hamil, 5-3, Jr., PG; Janie Hurd, 5-7, Jr., PF; Hallee Walker, 5-8, So., C; Jayden Brunson, 5-5, SG, So.
Keep an eye on: Alex Collins, 5-7, PG, Fr.; Alyssa Perkins, 5-8, Fr., PF.
The take: Nowhere but up to go for the Lady Mustangs.
Coach: Bobbie Wheat, 17th year.
Record last year: 9-7.
Returning starters: Mallory Barrett, 5-9, Sr., G (13 ppg, 10 rpg, 1 spg, 2 def., 80 percent FTs); Kylie Smith, 5-7, So., F (7.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.8 dpg, 1.4 steals); Emery Arnold, 5-8, Jr., P (11.4 ppg, 10 rpg, 1 dpg, 1.5 spg, 1.4 bpg); Riley Miller, 5-5, Jr., G (5.1 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg, 1 dpg, 1 spg.
Keep an eye on: Courtney Pease, 5-6, So. (4.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 1 dpg, 1.4 spg); Cameron Terrell, 5-6, So. (1.2 ppg, 1 rpg, 1 dpg, 1 spg), Lexy Gines, 5-4, Sr.; Freedom Barnes, 5-6, Fr.; Gracie Tiger, 5-6, Jr.
The take: Most of the sophomores and juniors saw significant playing time last year. Barrett had promise but saw just one game due to injury. Tiger is returning after missing last season due to injury. Porum won its opener against Hulbert on Friday.
Coach: Scott Belcher, 2nd year.
Record last year: 0-2, season suspended.
Returning starters: Alex Chandler, Sr., G; Zoey Hall, So., G; Savanna Dishman, Sr., F; Madison Dishman, Jr., F; Emily Bias, Sr., F.
Keep an eye on: Pazy Xiong, Sr., F; Anna Morris, Sr., G; Mati Clark, Fr., G.
The take: Braggs gets a three-week jump on the field as a non-football school and is 3-1 coming off a season that was ultimately shut down due to COVID-19.
BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW CAPSULES
Coach: Lynwood Wade, 3rd year.
Record last year: 11-6.
Returning starters: Javontae Campbell, 6-2, F, Sr. (21 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 spg). Newcomers: Bryce Thornton, So.
The take: Roughers’ challenge will be assembling the pieces around Campbell, whose inside presence helped push a group of multi-year starters within an overtime loss of playing for a state berth last year. Aggressive defense will be the key,
Coach: Scott Hensley, 11th season (girls/boys).
Record last year: 10-9.
Returning starters: Ty O’Neal, 6-4, Sr., (16 ppg, 7 rpg), Brayson Lawson (6-1, Sr. (14 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg), Rylan Nail, 6-4, Sr., P, (9 ppg, 9 rpg). Jaxson Whittiker, 6-1, Sr. (3 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg). Trey Moore, 6-0, Sr., 4 ppg, 2 rpg, 1 apg.
Keep an eye on: Logan Harper, 6-4, Jr. (4 ppg), Eric Virgil, 5-10, Jr. (4 ppg), Conner Contrell, 6-0, Jr.
The take: The Hornets have a core of players with two years of starting or regular experience. They’ll have to replace Evan Smith, a guard who averaged 17 points a game and is focusing on baseball only.
Coach: Todd Dickerson, 19th at school, 5th year HC).
Record last year: 11-9.
Returning starters: Jaiden Graves, 6-1, Sr.., F (7.5 ppg), Ethan Briggs, 6-5, Sr., C (6.2 ppg), Jaxon Blunt, 5-11, Sr., G (16.1 ppg), Seth Rowan, 5-10, Sr., G (7.4 ppg), Grant Edwards, 5-10, Jr., G (8.9 ppg). Keep an eye on: Jackson Glasby, 5-11, Sr., G; XZavion Shepperd, 6-1, Sr., F; Hunter Branch, 6-2, Jr, G, Weston Rouse, 6-5, Jr., C.
The take: Five starters led by 5-11 senior guard Blunt, a returning All-Phoenix player. Edwards was Newcomer of the Year last year. Rouse at 6-5 and an Oklahoma State baseball commit teams along with the 6-5 Briggs to give a strong post presence as the Tigers look to break a four-year state appearance slump.
Coach: Dante Swanson, 1st season.
Record last year: 14-8.
Returning starters: None.
Keep an eye on: Jack Southern, 5-10, Sr.; Corbin Marsey, 5-10, Sr.; Derrick Teyon, 5-7, Sr.; Alex Shieldnight, 5-3, Fr.; Jashawn Davison, 5-7, Fr.; Matt Swanson, 6-0, Fr.; Dante Swanson Jr., 5-9, Fr.
The take: Will size, or the lack of it, matter as Swanson, a former Bulldogs standout who went on to the University of Tulsa and a pro career overseas, returns to his alma mater where his son will be part of the rebuild after graduation gutted the starting lineup.
Coach: Jason Dowdy.
Record last year: 2-14.
Returning starters: Montana Warrior, 6-4, Sr., G (10 ppg, 5 rpg); Konner Collins, 6-1, So. (10 ppg, 5 rpg); Nolan Barnett, 5-10, Jr., (5 ppg).
Keep an eye on: Reyun Johnson, 5-10, Jr.; Elijah Thompson, 6-0, Fr.; Tyler Orman, 6-0, Fr.; Maddux Bridges, 5-10, Fr.
The take: Warrior and Collins are the core of the offense which will need help from aas many as three freshmen.
Coach: Jeff Oliver (fourth year, 29th overall).
Record last year: 13-5, 3A quarterfinalist.
Returning starters: Alex Parish, 6-3, Sr., G (16.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Khelil Deere, 5-11, Sr., G (9.7 ppg, 6/2 rpg), Justis James, 6-1, Sr., G (6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Keep an eye on: Jake Paris, 6-1, Jr, G/F; Riley Morgan, 6-2, Jr., F; Talon Weaver, 6-1, Fr., G; Johnny Burton, 6-3, Sr., P.
The take: Three starters back from a state tournament team led by All-Phoenix 2020/21 selection Alex Parish, averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 rebounds, Khelil Deer (5-11, 9.7 ppg, 6 rpg). Among newcomers, Talon Weaver is a 6-1 guard and move-in from Webbers Falls.
Coach: Dirk Walden, 2nd year.
Record last year: 15-9.
Returning starters: Preston Holmes, 5-10, Jr. G (12.2 ppg, 6.3 apg); Gabe Hamilton, 5-9, Sr., G; Hunter Dearman, 5-11, Jr., G.
Keep an eye on: Maddox Edwards, 5-10, So., G.
The take:: Holmes is a returning All-Phoenix guard who will carry the load, at least early.
Coach: Slade Young, 2nd year.
Record last year: 5-9.
Returning starters: Brannon Westmoreland, 6-4, Jr., SG (5 ppg).
Keep an eye on: Marcus Clark, 6-1, Sr.; Fernando Gonzalez, 5-11, G, Sr.; Briley Love, 6-1, So.; Dee Clark 6-2, Sr.; Darion Lockett.
The take: Basically a new team coming off a COVID year and with all but one involved in football.
Coach: Anthony Porter, 1st year.
Record last year: 7-13.
Returning starters: Jace Jackson, 6-0, So. (10 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg); Landon Swallow, 6-2, Sr. (15 ppg, x rpg); Jase McKenzie, 6-1, Sr. (5 rpg); Zac Lee, 6-1, Sr. (6 ppg, 4 rpg).
Keep an eye on: Justice Cockrell, 6-3, Sr.; Blake Ellis 6-4, So.; Hayden McElyea, 6-0, Sr.
The take: Porter comes over from Vian and will employ a defensive emphasis with some experience returning that are all capable shooters.
Coach: Chad Clark, 19th year.
Record last year: 7-11.
Returning starters: Ashton Walters, 5-10, So. SG; Duckee Swimmer, 6-1, So., C; Chance Burk, 5-10, Jr., SG. Keep an eye on: Diezel Davis, 5-7, PG, Fr.; Bryson Parnell, 6-1, Fr, PF; Tito Ramos, 6-1, So., PG.
The take: The addition of Parnell and Davis will help with a fast, hard-nosed style of play.
Head coach: Corey Miller, 1st year.
Record last year: 12-9.
Returning starters: KeJuan Reynolds, 6-5, Sr. P (16.1 ppg, 14 rpg); Mason Plunk, 5-10, Jr. G (7.1 ppg, 4.1 apg); Caden Willard, 6-2, Sr., G (12.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg); Adrian Vega, 5-11, Sr., G (7.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg).
Keep an eye on: Logan Crain, 6-4, Jr. (5.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg); Xavier Houston, 6-3, Sr.; Brandon Welch, 6-0, Sr.; Jacob Terrapin, 6-2, Sr.; Logan Faulconer, 5-10, So.
The take: Miller in his first season has heavy experience at the guard spot and a dominant post player in Reynolds, who was All-Phoenix last season.
Coach: James Bliss, 1st year as HC, 5th at school
Returning starters: Ben Kirkpatrick, 6-0, Jr., F; Brady Thomas, 6-1, Sr., F; Noah Cooper, 6-1, So., F; Keigan Reid, 6-0, Jr., C.
Keep an eye on: Journey Shells, 6-2, So. F; Aiden Dickerson, 6-3, Jr., C; Ty Bliss, 5-11, Sr., G; Jackson Duke, 6-9, Jr., G.
The take: Football will impact this team as much as any area squad in terms of revving its engine.
Coach: Jordan Garner, 3rd year.
Record last year: 12-8.
Returning starters: Daylan Jarrard, 6-2, Sr., G (7 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Maddux Shelby, 5-8, So. F (3 ppg, 6 rpg).
Keep an eye on: Caden Dishman, 6-3, Jr., F (2 ppg, 2 rpg); Ashton Davis, 5-6 , Fr.; Michael Taylor, 5-10, Fr.; Jaxon Swearingen, 5-10, So.; Stryker Chappel, 6-0, So.; Riley Ogg, 6-3, Jr.; Caleb Dishman, 6-3, So.
The take: Jarrard is the only senior in a group that will retool after a winning season in 2020-21.
Coach: Michael Arnold, 5th year.
Record last year: 6-9.
Returning starter: Michael Wright, 6-0, So., G, (13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Keep an eye on: Isaiah Sallee 5-8, Fr., G.
The take: Look for Wright to be the spark after averaging double figures as a freshman.
Coach: Jeff Fry, 6th year.
Record last year: No season, season suspended after 1-1 start.
Returning starters: Connor Miller-Dause, 6-0, So, G.
Keep an eye on: Jalen Melton, 5-8, Fr., G; Tayten Chapa, 5-8, Jr., G; Trey Ashley, 5-6, Fr, G.
The take: Just three years removed from a state tournament appearance, the Wildcats will be young. They’re off to a 2-2 start as the only boys team to play so far.