By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A loaded field in the Bixby Tournament has typically meant bad things historically for the Stillwater High School girls basketball team.
This year the Lady Pioneers (2-0) are hoping to make a little history of their own with a tournament title.
“We’ve won two games in it every year and hopefully we can win more this year,” Stillwater coach Carl Treat said. “It’s a highly competitive tournament. Bixby is a top 5 team in Class 6A and Shawnee is the defending state champion (in Class 5A). You’ve also got Glendale (Mo.), who is a top 5 team in Missouri and Claremore, who went to the state tournament last year in Class 5A. It’s a good draw. There’s five or six really good teams in it, so we’re going to have to play really well just to pick two wins, let alone win it.”
The field may be as deep as ever, but that’s not going to stop Stillwater this year. If anything, it makes the Lady Pioneers even more hungry knowing that they have a chance to prove themselves against some of the state’s top competition.
“We had a good scrimmage schedule and won our first two games, and now we have a chance to go off and play some teams that are quality teams,” Treat said. “It’s another chance to work and see where we are and measure ourselves and hopefully have some success against other good teams.”
“I’m just looking forward to the challenge. We’re still awfully young in places. We just have to work and figure things out, but I’m really excited about the opportunity and excited about the chance to play some good teams this weekend.”
Stillwater may be young in some areas, but with four returning starters already having experience in last year’s tournament, it’s easy to see why the Lady Pioneers have their eyes set on a championship.
“It helps tremendously with the comfort level,” Treat said. “Our kids rely on them. (The younger) players read their emotions. When they’re excited and playing well, it rubs off on the younger kids. It’s just a comfort level of knowing that this is not new to them.”
The Lady Pioneers may feel a little bit more comfortable in this year’s tournament, but with a 1 p.m. game against Claremore to open the tournament Thursday, Treat said it’s going to be a tough road to the championship.
“I told the kids the other day, ‘You can’t win the tournament if you don’t win the first game,’” Treat said. “It’s really important to move on into the semifinals. Of course, the task gets a lot more difficult after that. But Claremore’s got a good team and a good coach. ... We play at 1 p.m. so that’s a little different routine for us, but I’m curious to see where we are and how well we perform.”
After finishing fifth last year and third the year before that, Treat said the key to the elusive crown will be whether or not the offense can continue to light up the scoreboard. Stillwater has surpassed the 50-point mark in both games this season and the Lady Pioneers hope the hot shooting continues in Bixby.
“Hopefully, we’ll continue to shoot the ball well and share the ball,” Treat said. “Scoring comes down to taking good shots, being able to make them and taking care of the ball. We’ve done all of those things the last few games. Our biggest thing is that ball security allows us to get the shots we need. When we don’t turn it over, we’re a pretty good team.”
Even if the Lady Pioneers can’t come away with a championship, just getting a couple of wins will benefit Stillwater down the road.
“The first year we were in it, it sort of vaulted us to the top 10 in rankings because we were able to beat two really good teams in that tournament,” Treat said. “It’s a chance for us to gain recognition and a chance for us to show where we are. Again, it’s only December so you can’t celebrate, but it’s a good time to see where you are and find out early on what we need to work on.”
Depending on how Stillwater does in the first game, they will either play at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. Friday and will face either Bixby or Coweta.
“I think the kids are excited,” Treat said. “We just have to go back to our basics and play the way we’ve been playing our first two games. This tournament is going to be a challenge for us, but I feel pretty confident that our girls are ready to step up and meet that challenge."