By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It may not be Gallagher-Iba Arena, but the Pioneer Fieldhouse is quickly becoming the house of horrors for opposing teams across the state.
Don’t believe it? Just ask Lawton Eisenhower and Edmond North.
Both Eisenhower and Edmond North came in as a top 5 team looking for that marquee road win to bolster its resume for the playoffs. Both left trying to put the pieces back together after succumbing to Stillwater’s run-and-shoot offense.
“We’re unbeatable at home,” Stillwater junior Brett Budke said. “It’s our home court and we really believe that nobody can come in here and take us down. We’re not intimidated by anybody in our own house.”
With the talent on this year’s Pioneer squad, most fans expected Stillwater to take down at least one top 5 team during the season. But to take down two less than a month apart, it shows just how much potential this team has.
That doesn’t mean the Pioneers (6-3) are a finished product.
“It’s huge for us,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “You enjoy it and take what you need to from it. As a coach, we’re never satisfied — that’s part of my job. That’s why we have to practice and find things to work on. Our defense and rotations weren’t like they were supposed to be but we’ll get some things fixed when we come back to practice on Sunday.”
Six Pioneers reached double figures during Friday’s 86-77 victory over Edmond North — led by Rico Thompson, who finished with 19 points and 11 assists.
“That’s really impressive,” Davis said. “I didn’t know that we had six guys in double figures, but that’s a tribute to those guys and all the work they put in during those Christmas break practices.”
It’s that kind of depth that makes Stillwater such a dangerous team. Any given night guys like Budke, freshman Jordan Brown or even senior Caleb Watkins can go off and light up the scoreboard.
Friday they all did as Budke finished with 14 points — including four 3-pointers in the second half to help spark the Pioneer offense — while Watkins had 11 and Brown added 10. Junior Jared Dickey also finished with 12 points and junior Carson Teel tallied 11 points and 4 rebounds.
“It feels great,” Budke said. “There’s no other way to explain it, it just feels great. Anybody can score and Rico is great at getting everybody looks. It was just a team effort all the way around.”
Even when the Pioneers faced a little adversity following Watkins’ intentional foul during the fourth quarter, the young Stillwater squad didn’t get rattled — something that might have happened a month ago. Instead, the Pioneers calmed down, rolled with the punches and never really let Edmond North back in the game by knocking down 22 of 27 free throws.
“We work on game situations every day,” Davis said. “And we’re going to continue to work on them because that’s something that we have to get better at. We’re a young team. Rico is the only guy that played for us a lot last year, so we’re going to have to keep working on those game situations.”
And while Stillwater second win over a top 5 team this season may have came as a surprise to a lot of people Davis said he no longer pays attention to the rankings because he feels like his team is capable of beating anyone on a given night — especially in the house of horrors.
“I don’t know if it’s because they’re necessarily highly ranked or what,” Davis said. “We’ve got a very competitive group of guys and they want to win as bad as we do as a coaching staff. We have guys like Caleb Watkins that just play their hearts out. He did a great job on their stud. That kid was 6-foot-4 and Caleb is 5-8 or 5-7 and he was able to shut him down for the most part. Are you kidding me? Caleb plays smart and fronted that guy. The kid got his buckets but he knew he was in a battle after the game. We have a bunch of guys like that and that’s what makes this group so special.”