By SHAWN YORKS
• Leader & Times
Area Oklahoma Panhandle basketball teams are starting to get into some rarified air. The girls teams from Beaver and Forgan, and the boys teams from Beaver, Forgan, Tyrone and Hooker all begin play Thursday in their Area round tournaments. Class A Beaver and Hooker visit the cavernous Chisholm Trail Expo Center in Enid beginning Thursday, while Class B Forgan and Tyrone open play Thursday in Laverne, and continue on to Woodward on Friday and Saturday.
For the regional champion Beaver girls and Forgan boys, it’s simple: Win Friday and they punch their tickets to the state tournament, which begins March 3 in the Oklahoma City area.
Even if they lose Friday, the Bulldogs and Lady Dusters can still advance to ‘The City’ if they win the area consolation title on Saturday.
The 10th-ranked Class A Lady Dusters (23-2) play No. 3 Copan (20-3) Friday evening in Enid’s Chisholm Trail Expo Center. No. 1 Class B Forgan takes on No. 7 Hammon (19-7) at 8 p.m. Friday in Woodward’s Boomer Fieldhouse.
Every game in the playoffs is a challenge, but so far so good for the Lady Dusters. But playing Copan might be like looking in the mirror.
“They’re a lot like us, kind of guard-oriented, pressing defense, and don’t take a bad shot, they just shoot the ball,” Beaver head coach Casey Jones said. “Nothing’s bad to them, three-pointers or cutters. Anything. It’s almost a carbon copy of watching us play.”
So does that help or hurt the Lady Dusters, who would charge into the state tournament with a win in Woodward Friday?
“Watching stuff on film, I’m always kind of scared, but maybe I over-estimate,” Jones said. “But they look pretty dang good.”
Jones said it’ll be hard to matchup, since Copan does possess a little bit more size than Beaver.
“That kind of stuff worries me, but we’ve played it before,” Jones said.
For the Forgan girls and the Beaver and Hooker boys, the road is a little bumpier. Every game is a must-win, beginning Thursday.
No. 12 Forgan (16-9) takes on No. 18 Burlington (19-10) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Laverne High School.
Unranked Beaver (17-9) plays unranked Morrison (4-19) Thursday at 8 p.m. in Enid. Morrison won just a single regular season game, but captured its district championship with wins over Garber and Pond Creek-Hunter.
The Wildcats beat Barnsdall in the first round of regionals before losing the regional championship 53-52 in overtime to No. 7 Cheyenne-Reydon.
The Dusters aren’t taking them lightly.
“There’s a reason behind their record being like that,” Beaver head coach Brian Stalder said. “They came out of football with three starters — probably three of their best players — injured and did not get them back until late January.”
On top of that, Morrison missed a week of school because of heavy snow in that part of the state.
“They’ve only had their main kids there for about six games,” Stalder said. “They’re really a solid ballclub.”
Morrison took No. 7 Cheyenne-Reydon to overtime before falling in the regional championship.
“I’ve approached it this week telling our kids, ‘They’re not what their regular season shows, they’re what their run in the playoffs shows,” Stalder said. “They’re a very good ballclub.”
The Hooker Bulldogs’ magical ride continues despite a setback in the regional championship game. The No. 20 Bulldogs (17-7) lost to No. 6 Okarche (21-4) in overtime. Hooker takes on No. 17 Okeene (17-8) at 3 p.m. Thursday in Enid. Hooker started the season 5-5, but has won 12 of its last 14 games.