Stillwater News Press

Sports

February 28, 2013

Stillwater boys face familiar foe in Area bout

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Stillwater High boys basketball team has found itself in familiar territory — one loss away from its season ending, with Bixby looking to be the culprit to do so.

The past two seasons it has been the Spartans that put the final nail in the coffin of the Pioneers season. SHS will get the chance to avenge those losses 8 p.m. Friday at Tulsa Will Rogers High School in the area consolation semifinals — and instead send Bixby home to start thinking about next season.

“My sophomore and junior years we lost to Bixby in the first round of area after losing our regional championship game,” Stillwater senior Caleb Watkins said. “So we really want to get out there and win this one. My sophomore and junior years we lost to Edmond Santa Fe, then earlier this year we beat them. I think we’ll go out there and do the same thing to Bixby. We’re not going to let them do it to us three times in a row.”

Stillwater coach Michael Davis said he wants his play to remember the feeling from those past two losses, but not to use them as motivating factors in the win or go home contest.

“This is a different Bixby team,” Davis said. “But I also think, ‘Why not Bixby?’ That’s how I feel. They are in the same situation we’re in — must win. If it wasn’t going to be them, it was going to be somebody else, so why not them.”

Stillwater will have something else to motivate them instead.

The Pioneers will likely be down a man in their rotation. Senior point guard Braydn Murrell was injured in Saturday’s regional championship overtime loss to Tulsa Union at Pioneer Fieldhouse.

“I think we lost him for the year,” Davis said Monday. “We think he tore his ACL in his other leg. I’m not for sure, but I trust my trainer — he’s pretty good.”

It’s the second season-ending injury Murrell has had to deal with in the past two years — missing all of his junior season due to another leg injury. But the Stillwater coach said the players will rally around the fallen senior, who Davis said played his best games in the regional tournament this past weekend.

“It’s added motivation. We’re going to try to win it for him,” Davis said.

With Murrell an integral part of Stillwater’s eight-man rotation, the Pioneers may have to rely on some underclassmen to help fill the hole at the end of the rotation.

“Obviously we’ll need some freshmen to step up. The first one that comes to mind is Jake Green,” the Stillwater coach said. “The next guy we’ll need to step up is Aaron Noftsger, a sophomore. He’s got to be ready. He’s going to slide into that eighth spot now.”

As far as the leadership goes, that will now fall squarely upon fellow seniors Rico Thompson and Watkins to lead the Pioneers to a trip to Saturday’s area consolation finals — where a trip to the state tournament will be up for grabs.

“I just need them to do what they did this past weekend (in the regional tournament),” Davis said. “If they just play the way they’ve played the last two games we’ll be fine. We don’t need them to be heroes, we just need them to continue playing within the team concept.”

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