By BEN JOHNSON
Hulbert still is not ranked in the newest edition of the Class 2A poll that came out today. But the Lady Riders are still garnering respect this week.
The Hulbert girls will carry the label of No. 1 seed as they enter the Greenleaf Invitational in Porum. The Lady Riders will get tournament play started today at 4:30 against Gore.
“We have the No. 1 seed,” Hulbert coach Rick Ott said, “so people must think we have the ability to be pretty good.”
Through two games this season, that’s been the case. Hulbert breezed past Chouteau (73-35) in its opener and followed that up with a 52-29 rout of Warner on Friday.
“We think we’ve already opened some eyes with the first two games we’ve played this year,” Ott said. “These kids can play and they like to play.”
Navigating through his first year on the job, one thing has become clear to Ott: he has a group that enjoys competing.
“This team knows the game pretty good,” said Ott, who took over after last coaching at Inola. “They’re so coachable. They try to do everything that I ask them to do.
“You don’t have to worry about getting them fired up and ready to go. That’s been a pleasant thing to deal with. Kids, sometimes, don’t get ready to play, and this bunch shows up ready to go get it.”
Coming into this season, Ott knew he’d have key cogs in the rotation in Allison Arnall, Tiffany Thompson and Lindsey Krueger. But the emergence of Megan Cox and Brooke Bailey have added offensive firepower for the Lady Riders.
“The Warner coaches came and watched us play Chouteau, and Megan got everyone’s attention,” Ott said, “and that made Warner play a triangle and two on her and Tiffany. That allowed Lindsey, Brooke and Allison to play three-on-three.”
Through two games this season, Cox has averaged 11 points per game.
“She’s got a real pretty shot, and she’s developed into a good shooter,” Ott said of Cox. “She’s also learned her role as a defensive player.”
Keys hosting tourney
The Keys girls may be 0-3 to this point, but coach Mickey Duncan is focused on the silver lining.
Following the Lady Cougars’ last-second, 56-54 loss to Sequoyah on Saturday, “I told them in the locker room that ‘we haven’t played well as a team yet,’” Duncan said. “We really grew as a team against Sequoyah. We have to build off that and we’ll be just fine.”
Helping Keys move toward its first win of the season has been forward Sydni Rainbolt, who totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds against Sequoyah.
“She had a double-double the other night, and we need that from her,” Duncan said. “It helps our guards when she does that.”
Keys will take on Fort Gibson JV today at 6 p.m. in search of that elusive first win. Other teams in the Cougars Invitational field include: Muldrow, Holland Hall, Oklahoma City Centennial, Poteau, Hale and Tahlequah JV. Muldrow and Holland Hall both advanced to the winner’s bracket on Monday night.
“It’s a good field,” Duncan said. “It’ll be good for us.”
In the boys field, Class 3A No. 7 Keys (2-1) will take on Poteau tonight at 7:20. Muldrow and Holland Hall advanced to the winner’s bracket on Monday, and Vinita awaits the winner of Keys-Poteau in the tournament semifinals on Thursday.
Sequoyah squads head to Inola
Both Sequoyah teams will begin play in the Jerry O’Quin Tournament in Inola today.
The Lady Indians (2-0) are coming off a last-second win over Keys Saturday and will take on Inola in the first round at 4 p.m.
“We’ve been in the tournament the last three years and we’ve kind of been forming a rivalry with Inola,” Sequoyah coach Larry Shade said. “Seems like we’ve played them the last couple of years in the first round.”
The winner of the Sequoyah-Inola game will draw 3A No. 4 Verdigris on Thursday.
“If we get past Inola, we’ll get a great team in Verdigris,” Shade said. “It’s just a good tournament.”
The Sequoyah boys will take on Catoosa in the first round today at 5:30 p.m.
“Scouting report is they’re not that big,” Sequoyah boys coach Jay Herrin said of Catoosa. “They’re quick and like to penetrate; they mostly try to do stuff off the dribble.”
The winner of the Sequoyah-Catoosa game will take on the winner of Inola-Oologah in the second round. The other side of the bracket includes Verdigris, Pryor, Fort Gibson and Siloam Springs JV.
“Should be a very competitive tournament,” Herrin said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve only won it one time.”