March 13, 2014

Former player remembers last Lady Chicks state trip

Adam Troxtell, Sports Editor,
The Express-Star


The last time a Lady Chicks basketball team went to state, none of the current squad, technically, existed.

It was 1995, the first internet search engine, Yahoo!, had just been invented; in that early spring time no one was aware of the fate facing the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and the WNBA wasn't even around. The feelings inside the Lady Chicks' camp then are now being played out once again.

"None of these girls were born yet, I was a freshman in college; that really puts it in perspective," head coach Christy Edelen said. "It's an honor that doesn't come around too often."

Kelley Workman and her twin sister, Michele, remember that 1995 run to the state final well, along with the feelings that came with it.

"It was more than just nervous butterflies," said Kelley Workman, a Chickasha senior and future all-state selection at the time. "There was an excitement, an energy. We were definitely competitors; we lived in the gym. It was our desire to win the gold ball."

The heavily-recruited Workman sisters (Michele was also an all-state selection) had a big future ahead of them, going on to play at the University of Oklahoma and continuing work in basketball as a positive tool in ministry. But there was something about that team in that moment, perhaps unified by a trip to state the previous year. It's one that Workman said was deemed unsatisfactory when they reached the quarterfinals, but no further.

"That left us disappointed, because we knew we were better than that," she said. "We knew what our target was, and the next year we worked hard toward it."

A year later, with that experience still fresh in the memory, they returned with Christy Brown Oliver at point guard, Lisa Beal Clift at shooting guard, Kelley as a three guard, and Michele and Lydia Nightingale working in the front court.

This time, they made the final, where Ada stood between them and a precious gold ball. It ended with Ada on top, but in while Chickasha hearts were breaking, impenetrable bonds were being made. Just a few months ago, Kelley said, the team reunited to catch up and, no doubt, talk about such an exciting time.

"The camaraderie, the cohesiveness; I think we had that established," Kelley said. "I feel like we had such good relationships and mutual respect. If we had to encourage each other, get up in each other's faces -- in a good way -- we would do that. We believes in each other and wanted to succeed as a team. 

"We had the same heart, the same goal, and everyone was working for that. It enriched that all the more. It was all the more noticeable when we were there in those games."

The twins now live in the Dallas area, and Kelley works for Gateway Church while also serving as a part of Champions for Christ. The organization uses sports as an outreach tool to share the gospel while also building both personal and spiritual relationships.

Such an attitude of putting God first, Kelley said, helped the 1995 team bond.

"One important thing, something that was a big component for us is we believed and prayed together," she said. "I wouldn't say the Lord made us win. But it was more along the lines of 'Lord, posture our hearts; we want to glorify you.'"

The best way to battle any nerves about this first state trip, Kelley said, is for players to prepare themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.

"Have some alone time to focus on what you need to focus on," she said. "Share positive thoughts and envision yourself on the court at state. It's getting your mind prepared for the game."

And at the end of it all, she said, savor the time with the team. With two seniors, the majority of this year's Lady Chicks team will return for another run next season, but achievements like this are best not forgotten.

"Remember to laugh and have a good time," Kelley said. "Enjoy your time there with your team and enjoy the moment."