By BEN JOHNSON
Tahlequah’s last playoff victory in boys basketball was a double-overtime triumph over El Reno in the Class 5A state tournament.
Needless to say, the past three playoff visits haven’t ended as well. Starting in 2010, the Tigers began a stretch of first-round losses in the postseason that still stands today.
Ironically enough, the last two losses have come against schools from the Oklahoma City area (Southeast in 2011, Guthrie in 2012). This year, Tahlequah could end its playoff drought with a victory over Chickasha — another school from the west side of the state.
“I know it would be a huge lift for this group to have success tomorrow night and be able to play a little longer,” Tahlequah coach Mike Leafgreen said. “And that’s really all I’m concerned with.”
The Tigers (8-15) and the Class 5A No. 14 Fighting Chicks (13-9) will clash at Coweta High School in the first round of the regional tournament. The other first-round matchup will feature No. 6 Coweta against Grove.
If Tahlequah is to upset Chickasha, it will have to shut down E.J. Golightly and Joey Sylvester.
“Chickasha has two really good players; two of the best players we’ve played all year,” Leafgreen said. “We have to do a good job on them to give ourselves a good chance.”
Tahlequah begins the playoff after pulverizing Claremore, 71-37, on Friday, thanks to 19 points from point guard Lain Wright. Minus a home loss to 5A No. 1 Bishop McGuinness, the Tigers won three of their last four regular-season games.
“I think we’re in a good spot going into the playoffs,” said Leafgreen, whose one lose during that span was a three-point setback at Pryor. “We played a tough schedule that they record may not look good on paper, but it has helped get us ready for (Friday).
“We’re also gaining momentum and hitting our stride at the right time of the year.”
The two first-round winners of the regional will meet Saturday night at 7 in Coweta.
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