By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Playoffs don’t start for another week, but Stillwater High School senior Rico Thompson has spent a couple extra hours in the gym working on his shot.
Why? Because he knows exactly how important this weekend’s trip to Lawton is.
Not only will Thompson — who transferred from Lawton Eisenhower after his sophomore year — go up against his former team for the final time, but wins over No. 7 Eisenhower and No. 20 Lawton High could be just what the Pioneers need heading into the playoffs.
“I came from there, so there’s a good chance that I’ll be playing in front of my family and my friends but it’s just another game for us,” Thompson said. “We’re here to take the win and move on. There’s not any pressure. ... It’s not about me scoring 40 and us losing. I’d rather score zero and win.
“Lawton has two good teams. Ike is No. 7 in the state and Lawton High is No. 20 in the state. They’re two good teams and it’s just getting us ready for our regional that we’ll be hosting (in Stillwater) next weekend.”
The Pioneers (16-4) come in riding high on the wave of momentum from a 50-47 victory over Ponca City last Friday. But with the regional seeding already set, don’t expect Stillwater to coast through the final two games of the season beginning with Friday night’s matchup against Eisenhower.
“It was big when we played them here, but now it’s even bigger for us because we didn’t get to play this week against Enid,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “We’re treating it as a business trip. These two games don’t have anything to do with the playoffs, but it gets us ready because we’re playing two talented teams. Lawton Ike is a lot like Union size-wise. That will really help us because if we can get past Tulsa Hale in the first game, it will prepare us for Union.
“We couldn’t asked for tougher competition than what we’re going to play this weekend. Every game we play is getting us ready for what we’re trying to get done in the playoffs.”
The Stillwater boys aren’t the only ones using this weekend’s trip to Lawton as a boost into the playoffs. The Lady Pioneers (11-9) are also hoping to build some momentum and snap a three-game losing streak.
“It’d be a great thing to do,” Treat said. “We can pick up two wins and pick up some confidence and get ready for playing on a weekend because from here on out it’s weekend play and we’re looking forward to it.
“Obviously, you want to gain some confidence, but it also gives us a chance to look at two different teams. We can try some new things and hopefully get a little bit better before playoffs get here.”
Snapping a three-game losing streak is one thing but the Lady Pioneers will have more than that on their minds when they tip off against 17th-ranked Eisenhower at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s a chance to play against a good team and quality team that beat us earlier in the year,” Treat said. “We had a couple people out that game, so we’re hoping that will make a big difference. We’re not necessarily out for revenge, but it’s a chance to compete against a good team and beat a good team.”
With the playoffs a week away both teams are hoping that wins Friday against Eisenhower and Saturday afternoon against Lawton High send a message to the state that Stillwater will be a forced to be reckoned with at regionals.
“Everybody has slept on us this year,” Thompson said. “Nobody thought that we were going to be this good, but people in the gym knew that we were going to be this good. We just have to keep that mindset that nobody believes in us. We made a statement then and showed that we could play with anybody. Now we’re looking to do the same at their place.”
“We’re hoping to get a couple wins and give ourselves some momentum heading into the playoffs,” Treat said. “There hasn’t been one thing that we’ve been specifically working on in practice. Our shooting percentage has been a little bit low the past two games, but we’re just trying to get back to the basics and get ready for the playoffs.”