By BEN JOHNSON
The rivalry between Tahlequah and Bishop Kelley on the basketball court has been well documented. However, with the Comets set to leave the Metro Lakes Conference in 2014, perhaps the rivalry will shift to the golf course.
If so, this season will be one that certainly amped up the contention.
"Bishop Kelley has always been a rival of Tahlequah's," Tiger golf coach Nick Baker said. "BK has a solid team and a good coach, but all we can do is focus on our game and let the chips fall where they may."
While their is no love lost on the court or in the stands during basketball games, there is more of a tolerant relationship between the two schools on the links.
"It's a friendly rivalry," Tahlequah golfer Brandt Emerson said. "We get out there and joke around with them and say we want to beat them, and we do want to beat them before (a bunch of their seniors) get out of there. Hope we get to at state."
That's preciously where the Tigers will get their last crack at Bishop Kelley this season — at Tulsa Country Club at the Class 5A state tournament. Tahlequah is coming off a third-place finish at the regional tournament, where it was looking up at Bishop Kelley, who topped the leaderboard by the end of the 36-hole event.
The Tigers also finished second to Bishop Kelley at a state preview tournament and at the Metro Lakes Conference tournament at Bailey Ranch.
"We need to go out there and play our best and know we can beat them," Tahlequah freshman Blake Berry said. "We just have to go out there and give it our all."
Attempt at atonement: Of the 12 teams that made the state tournament in 2012, Tahlequah finished ninth, only five strokes ahead of McAlester, which finished last.
Not exactly what the Tigers had in mind after entering the tournament with hopes of competing for the championship.
"That was disappointing," Tahlequah junior Jake Johnson said. "We had high expectations, and this year they're even higher."
The 54-hole total of 1,040 last season has spurred Tahlequah on throughout the entire 2013 campaign.
"The guys weren't happy with their performance at state last year," Baker said. "They know they can perform at a higher level and used last year's performance as motivation throughout the season."
Scouting the site: Nestled in the northwest quadrant of Oklahoma's second-biggest metropolitan, Tulsa Country Club will present a par-70 challenged for the entire 5A field on Monday and Tuesday.
Luckily for Tahlequah, the Tigers had a chance to scout the location on March 25 at a state preview tournament.
"Playing Tulsa Country Club in March was helpful to all the 5A teams that participated in the state preview," Baker said. "It's a tough course with fast and undulating greens. We will get a practice round in again this Sunday and make a game plan."
The Tigers know they have to be crisp in all areas at the state tournament. But above all else, one facet of the game holds some added importance.
"Coach said to keep it in the fairway and two-putt," Emerson said. "It'll be an accomplishment to two-putt, because I heard the greens are really tough out there."