By BEN JOHNSON
When faced with a brutal stretch of games in the playoffs, Sequoyah came up big during the 2012-2013 season. The Indians knocked off the likes of Beggs, Henryetta and two-time defending state champion Oklahoma Centennial to reach the state tournament.
Then, for good measure, the Indians beat Sperry to reach the state semifinals, where Sequoyah met its match against Okemah.
Still, though, the Indians polished off a 20-9 record and its first trip to the state tournament since 2010. So, no pressure to repeat those kind of results this year, right?
“There always is pressure at Sequoyah to get to state,” Sequoyah coach Jay Herrin said. “Our team understands that and that is how we want it. We don’t ever want to shy away from high expectations and this group understands what will be necessary to achieve that goal.”
With a large contingent of last year’s team returning for the 2013-2014 slate, the Indians should be in good shape to end up in the state tournament again. But, not so fast, Herrin said.
“Last year’s success doesn’t guarantee us anything this season,” he said, “and having to replace some really good players like Ryan Helsley, TJ Jones, Niko Hammer, and Trinton Herron will be a very challenging task.”
That will challenge No. 1 for players such as Caisen Green, B.J. Leach, Zach Parish, Elijah Tucker, Quinton Johnston and Wyatt McClure. Than sprinkle in some new contributors and the Indians should be well-equipped to deploy its up-tempo game plan again this season.
“I have been pleased with how Caisen has improved his overall game and has become a more complete player. He is a very explosive athlete who can be the best player on the court most nights. He has the ability to play at the next level,” Herrin said. “Elijah Tucker should be our starting post and is a big body who rebounds really well. Quinton Johnston...worked hard this preseason and has improved his game. Zach Parish will play several different positions and has a good all around game. Seniors Nick Kingfisher and Wyatt McClure both will play a lot and possibly start at forward and point guard.”
Herrin’s biggest challenge early on will be transitioning his football players into basketball shape.
“We open up a little earlier than past seasons,” Herrin said, “so we have to get our football players ready real quick.”
Sequoyah’s season will begin Nov. 30 at Riverside.
Sequoyah basketball storylines
- Can the B.J. Leach-Caisen Green combination be one of the best guard duos in the state? The two standouts will team up this year and form a formidable duo on the perimeter. Leach is listed as a forward heading into the season, but he has the skills to handle the ball. Same goes for Green. Both could be hard to stop for opponents this season, and then parts around them will make Sequoyah lethal on offense.
- Will Sequoyah’s schedule be softer than in years past? Noticeably absent on Sequoyah’s schedule this season are Victory Christian, Stilwell and Verdigris — all pretty solid tests for both the boys and girls. In 2013-2014, Sequoyah’s slated to play in the Inola, Shrine and Jay tournaments while playing home-and-home contests with Henryetta, Cascia Hall, Keys and Riverside. Two barometer games heading into the playoffs could be the matchups at Ketchum on Feb. 18.
- Will the Sequoyah girls be able to dominate with their size? The trio of Audrey Ballou, Loren Young and Jhonette Cookson gives Sequoyah a three-headed monster on the low block. Rebounding and scoring near the rim shouldn’t be a problem for the Lady Indians, who will need sufficient guard play on the outside to balance things out.
Callison takes over talented Sequoyah girls squad
Larry Callison’s batteries are recharged and ready to go.
After taking a reprieve from coaching during the 2012-2013 season, Callison is back on the bench this season. Only instead of coaching at Ketchum — where he was from 2010 to 2012 — Callison will be calling the shots for the Sequoyah girls in 2013-2014.
“It feels good to be back doing the only thing I feel comfortable doing,” Callison said. “I do feel rejuvenated. I think it is good to get away for awhile; it gives me new energy and perspective.”
When Callison coaches his first game of the season at Riverside on Nov. 30, he’ll find himself in charge of a roster that isn’t short on height.
Led by senior forward Loren Young, the Lady Indians figure to cast shadows of their opponents with long length up front. Young stands six feet tall, while Jhonett Cookson — a Tahlequah transfer — is 6-1 and Audrey Ballou is 5-9.
“I’m looking for big things from Audrey Ballou and Jhonett Cookson,” said Callison, who will also have Sierra Polk (5-11), Amy Tiger (5-8) and Felicia Hummingbird (5-8) on his front line.
The Lady Indians are coming off a 20-9 season last year, which included a trip to the Class 3A state tournament. Sequoyah’s trip to State Fair Arena was short-lived, though, in a 61-39 loss to Adair in the opening round.
But with the majority of the roster returning this season, there are expectations for the Lady Indians to make a repeat run at the state tournament.
“There will always be pressure here because of the tradition, but to me that’s a good thing,” Callison said. “I don’t think our kids would want it any other way.”