By BEN JOHNSON
Sequoyah bowed out of the playoffs much earlier than normal last season. The Indians followed with an inauspicious start to this season, dropping a trio of games to top-10 clubs.
Since then, Sequoyah has maintained a spot in Class 3A’s top 20, but it’s been closer to 20 than it has been the top five.
“I think some people wrote us off early when we lost to Keys and Victory (Christian),” Sequoyah coach Jay Herrin said. “Honestly, this year, we’re not worried about how other people perceive us.”
The Indians’ image could be headed for a face-lift, depending on how Friday and Saturday go. Sequoyah will take on Henryetta tonight before hosting Keys on Saturday in the season’s second installment of the Cherokee County Showdown.
“If we do get some wins this weekend,” Herrin said, “you would think it might move us up a little bit.”
Since being at 3-3 in mid December, Sequoyah has gone 5-1 with the loss at the hands of 6A No. 6 Jenks at the Bedouin Shrine Classic. The Indians (8-4) have gotten a huge boost from the return of Caisen Green, which has fortified the lineup and allowed Sequoyah to play its normal up-tempo, pressing-style attack.
“It may be a little different than years past,” Herrin said of Sequoyah’s approach to game’s this season. “We’re not shooting as many 3s. We’re taking the ball to the hole more this year. We’re getting to the free-throw line and shooting better there.
“We’ve become more of a physical team than a perimeter team. We have some guys who can take the ball to the basket.”
Sequoyah’s run-and-gun mentality could cause problems for Henryetta, which doesn’t go deep into its bench on most occasions.
“They have a very talented first five, with three really talented players,” Herrin said of the Knights (11-3). “They don’t have a whole lot of size, they don’t have many leapers and they’re not very deep. Hopefully we can make it into a track meet.”
Before Keys goes for a season sweep of Sequoyah, the Cougars (10-5) take on 4A No. 10 Fort Gibson (11-3).
“Most of their games are not close games,” Keys coach Duane Jones said of Fort Gibson. “They’ve been thumping people.”
Exhibit A: Fort Gibson’s 63-27 rout of Hilldale on Thursday night.
“It’s going to be a good challenge for us,” Jones said. “We’ll have to be ready to go.”
Helping Keys round into its normal sharp mid- to late-season form has been the emergence of role players, Tyler Blankenship and Cody Cole. Both have enhanced their scoring abilities with Trevor Eubanks and Payton Ragsdale still shouldering the bulk of the scoring duties.
“Both are getting really comfortable,” Jones said of Cole and Blankenship. “Cody didn’t play at all last season, and Tyler only played half a season. They’re figuring things out and that’s making us better.”