Hard to believe that we roll into Area week for Class A and B schools already! Probably my favorite time of the year when it comes to broadcasting ballgames. There is so much on the line in every game and the pressure just builds the closer you get to the state tournament.
I spent district week in Cherokee and went back to Cherokee for the Class A sub-regional on Thursday before picking up the Class B regional at Tonkawa on Friday and Saturday. One of the more surprising runs so far has been the Garber boys run that has them in the Area tournament at the Expo Center in Enid. They had to play Cherokee on their home floor in the first round at district and made it through that “survive and advance, lose and go home” game. After losing to Medford in the district final the next night, they were forced to fight through the consolation bracket in the regional tournament. The Wolverines fought past a couple of Skeltur Conference rivals, Covington-Douglas and Drummond before getting another shot at Medford in the regional consolation final. After losing to the Cardinals by nine points the previous week, they came out and dismantled Medford by 19 in the rematch, sending the Cardinals home for the season. They’ve got some talent and will get another shot at conference rival Pond Creek-Hunter on Thursday afternoon.
Forgive me if I cheer from afar for the Waukomis Lady Chiefs as they take on Seiling on Thursday. They made the Area tournament for the first time in decades and their center, Kayla Lovell, is my babysitter! I had a chance to be a fan and watch her Senior Night win over Hennessey. I told her that she should be honored because it was the first high school game that I had actually bought a ticket for in years! She’s worked hard, as have her teammates, and she deserves to enjoy the ride as long as she can.
Burlington coach Randy Turney may be doing one of his best coaching jobs ever as he tries to guide his Elks back to the state tournament. Granted, he has one of the state’s best players in Garrett Butler, but his second best player, Lane Newlin, suffered a knee injury in January and has been a fixture next to Coach Turney on the bench. Butler found out after the Timberlake game in early February that he had been playing with a stress fracture in his lower leg. Instead of resting for a couple of weeks in an attempt to get it healed, Garrett has continued to play on it. His mom told me that his doctors are amazed by his pain tolerance. He took a shot to the leg against Timberlake on Saturday night that I thought he might not get up from. He winced a couple of times, walked it off and proceeded to score 33 of Burlington’s 40 points, including the game winner in the last few seconds. I will savor every minute I get to call of the remainder of his high school career on the Road to the Gold Ball.
I’ll be in Cleveland this week for the Class B Area tournament. I’ve got to say… Going east for the playoffs in Class B works out well for the Cherokee Strip Conference teams. The quality of play east of I-35 just isn’t at the level that our area teams are used to playing at. Last year, both the Timberlake and DCLA girls and the Medford and Burlington boys made it to the state tournament. I’ll predict that all four state berths at Cleveland go west. Burlington will win on Friday to punch their ticket and Timberlake will fight through the consolation bracket to win on Saturday. Deer Creek-Lamont could have something to say about that if they get past Mulhall-Orlando on Thursday. They would play Timberlake on Friday afternoon.
On the girls side, Timberlake and DCLA will play in the winners bracket Area championship and I think whoever loses that game will punch their ticket on Saturday night. Don’t count out Burlington. The Lady Elks could be playing on Saturday as well.
In addition to those three Cherokee Strip schools, the Lomega Raiders and Lady Raiders benefitted from going southeast and find themselves in the winners bracket finals. Chances are good that it could be a Cherokee Strip party in OKC with half of the conference schools at the state tournament.
We’ll have coverage of our area teams at the Class A Area at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center in Enid and at the 2A Regional Tournament in Weatherford and Fairview.
See you On the Road to the Gold Ball!