BIXBY, Okla. —
Chickasha head coach Bryan Merritt said his team has been breaking out of practice with a cry of “16” since early October. The number 16 represents the number of wins he figured his team would need in order to make the state tournament.
Friday night’s area playoff win over Guthrie was Chickasha’s 15th, and if the Fightin’ Chicks beat Bishop Kelley on Saturday night, they will make state.
“When we got our guys hurt, I quit saying it,” Merritt said with a laugh, referring to the preseason injuries to Montana Stonecalf and T.J. Filer. “But now we’re one win away from 16.
“I told them in the locker room; I just wrote down ‘four’,” Merritt said. “There have only been three state tournament teams in Chickasha’s history since 1970. They’ve got to win one game to become the fourth team.”
Merritt played on one of the state tournament teams in 1988, and was an assistant coach for the other two, in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
The Chickasha High School boys basketball team led the entire game in a win against Guthrie in the first round of the area playoffs Friday night.
The Fightin’ Chicks won the game 60-44, and took advantage of center Joey Sylvester’s size against a smaller Blue Jays team.
Sylvester scored 28 points to lead Chickasha, 17 in the second half, when his team pulled away for the double-digit victory.
Merritt said the game plan entering the matchup was to pound the ball inside to Sylvester, although his team didn’t follow his instructions early on.
“For about the first five or six minutes, he was open,” Merritt said. “But they wouldn’t throw it to him, so I just started screaming at them ‘Inside, inside.’”
The Chicks finally got the idea and Guthrie had no answer for Sylvester down low. Still, the Blue Jays only trailed 21-19 at halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Guthrie tied the game at 33 on a jump shot by guard Jerrick Warren. After that, Chickasha went on an 11-0 run that ended midway through the fourth quarter, and the game was never in doubt after that.
E.J. Golightly scored 22 points, and the Chicks’ top two players outscored Guthrie on their own.
Chickasha has relied on big scoring nights from seniors Golightly and Sylvester all season, and will need the same from them for however many games remain.
“I was talking to coach Edelen, and four different girls have led them in scoring,” Merritt said. “We’ve played 25 games, and we’ve never had anybody but those two lead us in scoring. For us to win, those two have to get 40.”
Chickasha tips off against Bishop Kelley at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bixby High School.