By BEN JOHNSON
Tahlequah let a Class 5A regional title slip through its fingers last season. Luckily for the Lady Tigers, they get a do-over in 2013.
Tahlequah landed a hosting gig for a straight season on Thursday when the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association announced the sites and pairings for this year’s 5A playoffs. Class 5A No. 7 Tahlequah will host and take on Coweta in the opening round with No. 13 and No. 18 Chickasha playing in the other first-round clash on Feb. 21
“The way we set our goals out were: we didn’t want to lose a game at home, and we think we’ve done a decent job of accomplishing that,” said Tahlequah coach Chad Walker, whose club’s only home loss this season was to Muskogee in the UKB Tiger Invitational finals.
“We wanted to win the conference, and we wanted to be ranked eighth at this time. Now, we want to go win a regional.”
A three-point loss at Collinsville on Tuesday likely hindered Tahlequah’s chances at winning the Metro Lakes Conference crown, but a regional crown would certainly atone for that.
First, the Lady Tigers will have to find a way to beat Coweta for the third time this season.
“We only got them by 12 at their place,” said Walker, whose team actually won by 16 at Coweta on Jan. 29. “They’re getting better. Plus, it’s playoff time; you can’t overlook anybody.”
With an opening-round win, the Lady Tigers would take on a lesser-known opponent from the west side of the state. With a week left to go in the regular season, Guthrie is 10-10 and Chickasha is 8-10.
Guthrie has beaten Chickasha twice this season.
“Guthrie is a pretty good team,” Walker said. “They play good defense.”
Last season, Tahlequah lost to Bishop Kelley in the finals of the regional tournament at the TMAC. Walker has a better feeling about this season, though.
“I think if our girls are playing well together and we’re hustling up and down the floor,” he said, “I think we can play with anybody.”
As for the Tahlequah boys, they will play in the Coweta Regional on Feb. 22. The Tigers will take on 5A No. 14 Chickasha in the first round, while Coweta will play Grove.
“I like where we ended up,” Tahlequah coach Mike Leafgreen said. “...Chickasha is probably most similar to Skiatook out of the teams we play. They have good guards and can really shoot it.”
The bad news for the Tigers: they’ve lost twice to Skiatook this season — both by narrow margins, though.
Currently on a two-game winning streak, Tahlequah hasn’t looked anything like its 7-13 record since leaving the John Nobles Invitational in Moore.
“Our team has definitely come together at the right time,” Leafgreen said. “Hopefully we can finish these last three [regular-season] games the right way and get better the next two weeks in preparation for regionals.”
Class 5A regional pairings
(Hosting team listed first)
- East Central, Durant, Grove, McAlester
- Bishop Kelley, Noble, Collinsville, Skiatook
- Tahlequah, Coweta, Guthrie, Chickasha
- Edison, Pryor, Claremore, Memorial
- Shawnee, Capitol Hill, El Reno, Bishop McGuinness
- Piedmont, Duncan, Lawton MacArthur, Guymon
- Carl Albert, Southeast, Del City, Altus
- Deer Creek, Western Heights, NW Classen, Ardmore
- Memorial, Claremore, Pryor, Skiatook
- Bishop Kelley, McAlester, Noble, Durant
- Coweta, Grove, Tahlequah, Chickasha
- Edison, Collinsville, Guthrie, East Central
- Bishop McGuinness, Guymon, El Reno, Western Heights
- Lawton MacArthur, Altus, Piedmont, Ardmore
- Carl Albert, Duncan, Del City, Shawnee
- Southeast, NW Classen, Capitol Hill, Deer Creek