February 26, 2014

CHS girls hit stride in postseason build-up

Adam Troxtell
The Express-Star


What a difference a week can make.

Just seven days prior Monday, the Chickasha girls had lost their sixth straight game in the midst of a packed schedule. By the end of their 66-30 win over Duncan, they had won three straight. That stretch included a victory over first-round playoff opponent Western Heights, who the Lady Chicks meet on Thursday in Piedmont at 6;30 p.m.

"Some of our younger kids have stepped up and our older kids are leading us," head coach Christy Edelen said. "You want to play your best at the end of the year every year, and hopefully it's coming together. I don't think we've seen our best game yet, and we're excited about that."

The run is similar to that which carried Chickasha (9-12) into the postseason last year, when they unexpectedly reached the area round and got within one game of the state tournament. Perhaps that is why the Lady Chicks have remained at No. 10 in Class 5A even amidst the losses. 

There was a sense of faith around the team that now seems to be paying off. 

"When you lose, you just start pressing yourself," Edelen said. "That's human nature. To see the smiles, some confidence grow and encouragement of each other, if you can just keep everybody going when you're on that stretch of teams and keep them motivated, when you have a chance for success, it makes it more exciting to play a ball game."

That confidence has been evident the last few games. Dominique Golightly led the way against Western Heights last Friday with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Surrounding that was a 16 point performance against Durant and 17 points against Duncan on Monday. 

The sophomore was expected to have another great season after breaking onto the scene last year, and she seems to be finding form at the right time. But other players are right there with her. 

After sinking a 28 points against Durant, senior Alex Stewart has followed that up with two more games into double-digit points. She had 14 against Duncan and 11 at Western Heights last week. This comes after a mid-season slump that Stewart has put well behind her.

"It was just one of those slumps you can't explain," Stewart said. "I'm glad we're out of it. We've always been really close, but it does make us happier to win."

On top of that are players like sophomore Taylor Sylvester (six points against Western Heights), freshmen Karissa Duke (seven points against Duncan), Meredith Nolan (six points and seven rebounds against Duncan), and Jaycie Brown (10 rebounds against Duncan) who are all now starting to contribute more with each passing game.

Perhaps it's one of those "time-of-year" things. The team is becoming more energetic, Golightly said, as they look forward to another season finale with endless possibilities.

"Since last year when we went into the playoffs and won, we just took it from last year," Golightly said. "Everyone is putting in a little more energy in the gym, because we plan on making it pretty far this year."

It's also down to the schedule. Edelen said in the past she would put her team's schedule against anyone in the state, which included stretches like playing No. 1 Shawnee away before coming back to take on 4A No. 3 Anadarko and No. 4 Carl Albert at home. There was also the matter of No. 3 Deer Creek at home.

"We knew if we could just survive that death row, we would get three games in a row leading into the playoffs that wouldn't be against number one, number two back-to-back," she said. "We were hoping that could get our confidence going. This was the plan, it scripted out exactly how we had hoped it to."

On the same note, the Lady Chicks hope to use that experience as they march into the playoffs.

"Coach is always telling us we've basically played the state championship teams twice now," Golightly said. "With playing all of them, we pretty much know what to expect."

But in the midst of the excitement, the seniors, Stewart and Maddy Irving, are there to ensure heads stay level.

"Well, as long as we don't think we can beat [Western Heights], and go out and still play our hardest, I think we'll be fine," Stewart said.