By BEN JOHNSON
Playoff assignments were handed out and Larry Callison was less than pleased. He even admitted as such.
“I don’t like the matchup,” said Callison, whose Sequoyah team was paired up with Keys in the district tournament that will be played Saturday at Sequoyah’s The Place Where They Play.
“It’s probably one of the worst districts that we could have.”
In his first season as Sequoyah’s coach, Callison’s team is ranked fifth in Class 3A and its only loss was to Inola in the first round of the Inola tournament on Dec. 10. Since then, it’s been nothing but wins for the Lady Indians (21-1).
And because Sequoyah has rattled off win after win, Callison was hoping for an easier district matchup. Instead, he got a county rival that pushed his team to the limit on Jan. 28 in a 53-48 contest.
“The last time it was a dogfight at their place,” Callison said. “...(Keys) is playing better and they’ve played a tough schedule. They know how to play in big games. I’m just glad it’s at our place.”
Despite going 0-2 against Sequoyah this season, Keys (9-9) coach Mickey Duncan said taking Sequoyah to the wire helped his club boost its self esteem for the home stretch of the season.
“We gained some confidence and started playing harder and started believing that we had a chance,” Duncan said. “So we have learned we can play with them.”
Duncan’s also hoping for the old adage that it’s hard to knock off the same team three times in a row.
“Playing them the third time gives us an advantage,” Duncan said. “It’s hard to beat a good team three times.”
In Sequoyah’s last three games out, slow starts have led to semi-tight contests against Broken Arrow’s junior varsity, Metro Christian and Ketchum. Callison knows his club has to avoid that going forward.
“It’s the best thing that could of happened to us, at the time,” Callison said of his team falling behind against Ketchum on Tuesday. “Win or lose, it was good to play in that environment because it was like a playoff environment.
“Sometimes we go into a game where we’re the better team — or higher-ranked team. I hope we get rid of that pretty quickly. We have to because there’s no tomorrow.”
Bottom line, the loser of the Sequoyah-Keys matchup will have a long, challenging road to get to the state tournament.
“We don’t want to be in the loser’s bracket,” Callison said, “because that’s a tough, tough thing to go through.”
In the boys game between Sequoyah and Keys, it’ll be a contest of two teams that have played lopsided games this year. The Indians beat Keys 64-29 on Dec. 3 and 61-23 on Jan. 28.
Still, though, Sequoyah coach Jay Herrin knows his team will be tested by the Cougars (2-17).
“We expect them to come out and guard us,” said Herrin, whose team is 19-3 and ranked fifth in 3A. “They have the Girdner kid back, so we expect a different challenge. Just hoping we can get a win and head on toward the regional.”
And with likely regional opponents in the crowd scouting the game, Herrin said his team isn’t likely to reveal a lot with its game plan against Keys.
“We won’t show everything,” Herrin said. “We have a little bit of new stuff, but we’ll try to keep it pretty plain if we can.”