It's hard to close out a game. There may not be a harder thing to do in all of competitive sports.
Everything becomes more difficult with the game on the line. A free throw, a lay-up, a set play; they all become much more difficult in the fourth quarter than they were in the first quarter for many players.
For the Chickasha High School basketball teams, fourth-quarter execution is holding them back.
For the girls team, experience may be to blame. The Lady Chicks rely heavily on two freshmen, Dominique Golightly and now Taylor Sylvester. Freshman Kelsi Gore has gotten more important minutes recently.
Brooklin Burns and Jackie Ramos are key reserves, but they're only sophomores.
Sierra Hamilton, Kieley Clift and Alex Stewart are all relatively experienced players, but even they are somewhat new this year to playing in close games against good teams.
So for the girls, the fact that they are frequently finding themselves in crunch-time situations speaks to their improvement from last season. Now, they must take the next step and make those late free throws, eliminate those crucial turnovers, and get those defensive rebounds to eliminate their opponents' opportunities to score.
The boys are a little bit different. Head coach Bryan Merritt has made reference to the effort, particularly on defense, of the Fightin' Chicks at the end of games.
Some of that may be due to fatigue. E.J. Golightly, Joey Sylvester, Dakota Goombi and Datious Dufur play almost every minute of every game for Chickasha, and the team does not yet have many bench players that can be trusted in game situations.
But, that's not likely to change, so the Chickasha boys are going to have to get in even better shape and dig deeper in those fourth quarters, to avoid blowing leads as they did in losses Friday and Saturday.
Both teams have a ton of potential. However, the next step of improvement for them now might be more difficult than any of the steps that preceded it.