By BEN JOHNSON
It’s been quite some time since Tahlequah last played a home game.
The last time Tahlequah’s basketball teams played under the TMAC roof there was still a week left for Christmas shopping. Needless to say, it’s been a while.
“We’ve just been traveling, and it’s funny because at school people are like, ‘you actually have a home game?’” Tahlequah guard Randee O’Donnell said. “I’m like, ‘yeah, you should come.’ And I think everyone is going to come just because we haven’t had [a home game] in so long.”
Tahlequah’s triumphant return home will pit both Tiger teams against Metro Lakes Conference rival, Bishop Kelley. The girls will get things started at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s been a long time,” Tahlequah coach Chad Walker said about returning home. “The girls ought to be excited...we’ve been playing pretty good.”
Indeed, they have.
The Tahlequah girls, Class 5A’s ninth-ranked team in the coaches’ poll on okrankings.com, have won three straight games, including a 55-38 rout of Coweta on Tuesday night.
“We’re happy where we are,” Walker said. “We’re playing well, and we’re shooting the ball well. We’ve got more hustle and heart out on the floor, and things are going good.”
As for the importance of Tahlequah’s game with Bishop Kelley, Walker’s response should sum it up.
“Huge!” he said.
There are several factors at play when the 5A No. 5 Bishop Kelley girls arrive.
“If we get a win, we’ll probably move up in the rankings before the final seedings,” Walker said. “If we get beat, we’ll drop down in the rankings before the final seedings. So it’s a huge game for us.”
Despite the rankings, Tahlequah is actually in better positioning when it comes to the conference standings. The Lady Tigers (11-7) are 6-2 in league play with Bishop Kelley (11-7) a game behind at 5-3.
But in high school basketball, conference titles are nothing more than pride boosters. Rankings and playoff seedings are what it’s all about in February.
Thus, a victory over Bishop Kelley becomes imperative if Tahlequah hopes to land a regional tournament at home for the second straight season.
In the first matchup between the two teams, Bishop Kelley held off a late Tahlequah rally to prevail 54-51. Seana Stoia led the Lady Comets with 15 points.
For Tahlequah, it was a matter of not getting shots to fall during the game in Tulsa.
“I think that was our first game when we weren’t hitting our shots,” Tahlequah point guard Marisa Girdner said. “Our defense wasn’t as sound to make up for that, and so we were out of our groove and we didn’t know how to get out of it.”
In the boys game, 5A No. 9 Bishop Kelley (13-5, 7-1) will put its two-game winning streak on the line, while Tahlequah will go for its second straight upset bid this week. The Tigers (5-13, 2-6) fell short of 5A No. 5 Coweta, 55-45, earlier this week on Tuesday.
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