By Ron Holt
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The ride home after the Shawnee Invitational championship game had to be a time of soul-searching for Stillwater High’s Pioneers.
SHS lost the championship to Putnam City North. That wasn’t the end of the bad news.
During the game, Pioneer senior guard Brett Budke re-injured his knee, an injury severe enough to send him to the sidelines for the remainder of the regular season and perhaps longer.
Budke was a starter and one of SHS’s better players. He was a team captain, the team’s emotional leader. His coaches and teammates struggled to handle the loss.
SHS had a couple of different paths it could take afterward. The Pioneers could let the disappointment of his loss become a burden or they could elevate their level of play.
Obviously, the 13-6 Pioneers, who return to action tonight at Enid, chose to take the latter approach as evidenced by their recent play against Class 6A’s sixth-ranked Edmond Santa Fe and Class 5A’s top-ranked Oklahoma City McGuinness.
“We were all hurting for him. He’s such a great kid and great player for us,” said veteran Pioneer coach Michael Davis. “The guys said if we make it to state Brett might be able to play.
“We played Santa Fe the first game after the tournament and the guys said they were playing the game for Brett. They were highly-ranked but we beat them 81-65 and then we came back the following Friday and beat McGuinness, which had beaten us earlier.”
It was obvious that other players had to step up if the Pioneers were able to recover from the loss.
“As coaches, we felt we had nine or 10 guys that could help us this year. Now it was time for someone to step up,” Davis added. “Brandon Prather took Brett’s spot. He’s improving and scored 19 points against Santa Fe. He had 12 against McGuinness … he’s a great athlete.
“Garrett Christian stepped up and began hitting shots for us and we put Jordan (Brown) on the bench to settle him down and he’s been unbelieveable coming off the bench. Carson Teel has been our leader all season and he did so many good things for us.”
To reach their goals, the Pioneers, who cling to hopes of hosting a regional tournament, were also going to have to become a more unselfish team.
“It’s hard for today’s kids to not play for themselves,” Davis said. “But, I can truly say these guys don’t care who scores or who gets the credit. They just want to do whatever it takes to win.
“That’s about all we can control right now. Enid is our next game and we have to just go play,” he said.
And, play with the passion and commitment that was displayed the two previous games.
Ron Holt is a guest columnist for The Stillwater News Press.