By Derek Brown
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater hit a six-game winning streak at the right time.
The Pioneers are on a roll as they head into regional play. No. 11 ranked Stillwater will travel to Bixby at 6:30 p.m. Friday to take on Sand Springs in an elimination game.
“Sand Springs likes to shoot 3s so we’ve been working on closing out and trying to keep it loose and not put more pressure on these guys than there needs to be,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “It’s different now because everybody is 0-0 now. You have to win your first game in order to make it to the next weekend.”
The Pioneers received great news Monday when senior guard Brett Budke was cleared to play. Budke was injured in the finals of the Shawnee Tournament on Jan. 25.
“It’s the best feeling (to be back on the court),” Budke said. “I’m a little out of shape and my touch isn’t quite there but it’s coming along. I’m feeling better.”
Because Budke was out for around a month he has lost some of his shape. Budke will likely be limited in minutes but could contribute to the Pioneers.
“I know how much this means to him. He wants to be out there. It’s good to have him with us,” Davis said. “He’s a big part of what’s been going on. He’s been writing scouting reports.”
Budke has already shown his unselfishness — which is what the Stillwater Pioneers stand on. Budke told Davis that he would rather come off of the bench instead of reclaiming his starting role to keep the team’s momentum going.
“He’s all about Pioneer basketball and not the individual part of it,” Davis said.
The team is excited about having Budke back on the floor.
“It’s awesome (to have Budke back). He’s another weapon. He’s one of my best friends. He’s like a brother to me,” Stillwater senior guard Carson Teel said.
Even though SHS is riding on a wave of success the Pioneers have still been working to sharpen their skills.
“We’re getting ready to go. We’re very positive going into the game,” Teel said. “It doesn’t matter how we were at the start it’s how we finish. We have a six-game winning streak now and we can erase that and get six more. That’s all we’re looking for.”
Sand Springs is 7-16 and has lost its last three games.
“They’re better than what their record is. They’ve got guys that can shoot,” Davis said.
Stillwater ended the regular season with a 17-6 record and has won its last six games.
“We feel good about (heading into regionals). If you don’t feel good about it you’re casting doubts about yourself. We believe we have enough to get everything done,” Davis said. “Our goal is to win the next six games.”
Stillwater will be fighting it out against Muskogee at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The Lady Pioneers will travel to No. 8 ranked Muskogee for their regional opener. Muskogee is 19-4 headed into the elimination game and Stillwater is 10-13.
“We’re going to have to play good defense,” Stillwater coach Clay Stephens said. “We also need to make shots. They gamble a lot on defense. We need to recognize that and get open shots and make them.”
Muskogee’s four losses came against No. 16 Lawton Eisenhower, No. 13 Tulsa Union and No. 1 ranked Broken Arrow twice.
Stillwater will have to block-out and grab as many rebounds as it can because Muskogee thrives on second-chance points.
“I told our girls this (Tuesday) ‘I think their best offensive play is to shoot and miss and get the rebound,’” Stephens said. “They get a lot of points off of offensive rebounds. We have to be able to hold that in check.”
Muskogee will put five athletic players on the court at all times. Because of the Lady Roughers’ athleticism Muskogee will likely play a man-to-man defense.
“They play what I call pro defense. They don’t help much,” Stephens said. “They’re good at it. Athletically they are better than the person they’re guarding. Does that mean they’re a good basketball players? Not always. We have to use our basketball sense to override their athletic ability.”
Stillwater has won its last two games to end the regular season on a good note. But the Lady Pioneers have taken every opportunity in practice to hone their talents as they will be playing to extend their season on Thursday night.
“I thought we played good our last three or four games and then we played Southeast. We had way too many turnovers,” Stephens said. “I thought we were getting better, better, better and then took a big step back. ... Something that really worries me is our confidence level. We need to be mentally tough.”