By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Last week at Bixby the Stillwater High School boys basketball team got a heavy dose of reality, dropping its last two games of a tournament it won the year before.
Now the Pioneers (3-2) are hoping that experience pays off when they face a pair of ranked teams beginning with No. 19 Lawton High Friday at the Pioneer Fieldhouse.
“We just have to regroup,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “We’re a young team. Truth be told, Rico (Thompson) is the only guy that played last year that was a full-time player. They were disappointed that they lost to Edison by three. They realize that if we would have made our free throws we could have won that game and we’d be coming in with a different mentality.”
The mentality may be slightly different when Stillwater faces Lawton (2-2) Friday and fifth-ranked Lawton Eisenhower (5-0) Saturday, but the approach will still be the same.
“Every time you play, you want to win the game,” Davis said. “We want to win every time we play, no matter who we’re playing. Whoever comes into our we’ll give them a battle. Everybody we play is going to be ranked higher than us and are going to be bigger than us. We just know that when you throw the ball up, that’s when the game is decided.”
Stillwater’s youth hurt the team in Bixby, but Davis said that youth can also be the key to taking down a top 10 team like Eisenhower.
“Our guys look at them and realize that it’s just a number by (Eisenhower’s) name,” Davis said. “They still have to play the game like we do. Especially at home, we always feel like we have a lot of confidence going into any game and that helps quite a bit.”
Even though the Pioneers have dropped the last two games, players like senior Caleb Watkins and junior Brett Budke are starting to emerge as leaders for this young squad.
“Having all those guys who have played before helps quite a bit,” Davis said. “We just have to get back to the way we were playing (before the Bixby Tournament).
“We have to make our free throws, take care of the ball and play as hard as we’ve been playing. We’re 3-2 and we maybe could have been 5-0 or 4-1, but losing those games was never about the effort that we brought. I know our guys are going to continue to step up and leave it all out there on the floor.”
Free throws have been a big emphasis for the Pioneers during the week in practice. Knowing the talent that both Lawton and Eisenhower have, it could come down to free throws once again this weekend Davis said.
“Free throws are big, but right now our biggest problem is in between the ears,” Davis said. “You just have to go in there, shoot them and not think or try to do too much. You just have to stick to your routine and focus.”
A partisan Pioneer crowd should help with that focus, along with not feeling like Stillwater has a target on its back.
But while most people would call either victory for Stillwater an upset, that’s not the way Davis is looking at this weekend.
“We feel good,” Davis said. “We had good practices all week. We’re playing at home and our goal is to win every game at home this season. I know the kids are really excited. Our fans give us great support and we’re hoping to put on a show for them.
“It doesn’t matter if (Lawton or Eisenhower) is bigger and taller, we’re going to do everything in our power to find a way to win. Whether it’s knocking down free throws, forcing turnovers on defense — just whatever it takes.”
Saturday’s contest against Ike will start following the girls game, which tips off at 3:30 p.m.