Stillwater News Press

November 24, 2013

Stephens hopes to take the Lady Pioneers to new heights

By Nick Snow
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Change is something that you can’t get used to overnight. It takes time and patience.

That’s something the Stillwater High School girls basketball team has learned the hard way since practice started.

Even with Clay Stephens now at the helm, replacing Carl Treat as coach and implementing his own style of play, the Lady Pioneers won’t magically turn things around and be the best team in the state. They’re going to have to work at it.

“My expectations as a coach are always the same — we need to make it to the state tournament,” Stephens said. “But with this team, what we’re going to try to do is feel our way along and try to get better each game. Then, toward the end of the season we want to be playing our best basketball when it comes time for the regional tournament.

“We’re a work in progress, but we’re just going to try to get better along the way. We may have a slip up here and there, but that’s going to happen. We just want to work and work and work so that at the end we’re playing as good as we can play as a team.”

A work in progress is definitely a nice way to put it for Stephens. No longer can the Lady Pioneers count on players like LaNesha Middleton or Austyn Iven to score 20-plus points per game — both of them have gone on to bigger and better things.

Now it appears the Lady Pioneers will be relying on their scoring by committee this season, using a combination of post play and outside shooting.

“We’re looking for some competitiveness,” Stephens said. “We’re going to see who is willing to go out there, no matter what the situation, and compete. During our scrimmages, we’ve struggled with that at times. We kind of played a little soft and let the other teams dictate things to us and we need to get that corrected.”

And while Stillwater will be without the leadership of Iven at the point guard position, Stephens said he feels like he’s found a capable replacement in sophomore Dylan Fix.

“Our point guard is very important,” Stephens said. “She’s just a sophomore, but she’s got better for us in each scrimmage we’ve played. ... We’re going to ask her to do some things that she might not be ready to do, but she’s going to grow into that. Does that mean she’s perfect? No. But she’s getting better and I think she has a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Fix, who saw some playing time as a freshman last season, may be in uncharted territory with the new position but she won’t be alone in the backcourt.

Joining her will be Becca Worthy, a senior who has been hampered with knee problems. And while Worthy is more apt to drive the lane as opposed to the sharp-shooting Fix, just having that experience next to the sophomore should help the Lady Pioneers.

“In high school basketball, seniors are important, not only for their playing ability but for providing leadership to the other kids,” Stephens said. “When things are going well you can count on them to keep everybody on the even keel. But it’s not just Becca, we expect that from all the seniors.”

While the six scrimmages haven’t gone as smooth as Stephens would have liked, the first-year Stillwater coach said he feels optimistic as the team prepares to open the season against the Oklahoma City Storm in the Ponca City Festival on Monday.

“We started out kind of slow and I think a lot of it was that we weren’t quite grasping what we were trying to do,” Stephens said. “Our last couple of scrimmage have been better. We’ve had a good week last week as far as practice goes, and we had a good practice on Friday. Our game is on Monday and our excitement was good and our energy was good. There comes a time when you get tired of practicing against your teammates and you want to play someone else. We need to do that and just kind of evaluate where we are as a team.”