By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
For the past two weeks, the Stillwater High School boys basketball team has been working on finishing — finishing layups, finishing free throws and finishing games.
That’s what happens when you’ve had two weeks to stew over a devastating loss to Bishop McGuinness.
Now Stillwater coach Michael Davis hopes all that hard work pays off when the Pioneers (5-3) look to take down their second top 5 team at home when No. 5 Edmond North (6-3) visits the Pioneer Fieldhouse Friday.
“We’ve been practicing hard on a lot of things,” Davis said. “We’ve spent a lot of time in end-of-game situations — how to play when we have the lead, how to play when we’re behind by so much and things like that. We’ve worked on a lot of things and I feel comfortable that we’re ready for the challenge.”
Earlier in the year Stillwater beat then-No. 5 Lawton Eisenhower on the back of a 27-point performance from Rico Thompson. Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly for the Pioneers to coast into Christmas break with a three-game winning streak.
That’s when things started to head south.
Stillwater’s offense struggled against Bishop McGuinness — epitomized by a blown layup at the buzzer that could have sealed the game for the Pioneers. After weeks of tinkering and adjusting, Davis hopes it will be a different story Friday.
“The last game against McGuinness our traditional offense didn’t work,” Davis said. “We had to make some adjustments. Hopefully that will help us because we’ve been working on those adjustments in practice. That way if we’re faced with a situation like the one at McGuinness, we’ll be able to respond and fix things.”
Friday’s game isn’t just about taking down another top 5 team. It’s also the start of the second half of the season. And while Davis was hesitant to call it a must-win for the Pioneers, a win wouldn’t hurt Stillwater’s chances for hosting a playoff game.
“I don’t know if it’s a must-win, but it’s a pretty important game for us,” Davis said. “Right now, everybody is kind of jockeying for position and trying to host a playoff game. We’re just going to go about it the same way we go about every game we play. It’s nothing new to us. It’s just another game that would look good on our resume when it comes to playoff seeding.”
To prepare for what could be a huge boost to the second half of the season, the Pioneers scrimmaged against No. 3 Putnam City on Monday. Davis said he hopes that experience will be just what Stillwater needs to get back on track for the rest of the season.
“It was a pretty good scrimmage for us,” Davis said. “It helped us a lot because we know that we can compete with anybody. But nothing can beat playing in an actual game situation. This is going to be a big game and a chance for us to make a move in the playoff picture.”
It isn’t very often that a team gets a chance to knock off a top 5 opponent in a season — let alone two. But while Davis said he’s expecting all his players to rise to the challenge, he knows that it takes the perfect mixture of energy, composure and some hot shooting to beat an athletic team like the Huskies.
“We just have to play our game,” Davis said. “We can’t get too excited, otherwise we’re going to struggle. They’ve kind of moved up lately but they know about us. We just have to do what we always do and take care of business on our home court.”
Still, Davis can’t help but smile as he thinks about knocking off a second top 5 team at home.
“It would mean a whole lot,” Davis said. “That’s what we want. We want to get the second half of the season off with a big win. It would help build a stronger resume and help build some confidence in our guys as they head into the rest of the season.”