Regardless of how straight forward No.7 Chickasha's district round playoff game looks on paper, no one wants to enter the season on a losing streak.
The Fightin' Chicks assured they would not do so in a 67-58 win against 5A No. 3 El Reno on Tuesday. Not only does the victory break a three-game skid for Chickasha, but it also avenges a loss they suffered to the Indians last month.
Momentum is swinging the right way for Head Coach Wes Pulliam.
"It's really, really big for our kids," Pulliam said. "They need a confidence booster going into the playoffs. It's back to playing the way we need to play."
Chickasha benefitted from a big run late in the first quarter, which gave it the lead they never surrendered. El Reno tried its hardest, even cutting the lead down to a single point in the third quarter.
But Chickasha was in the mood to run and got back to its strength to take control of the game. Brock Henderson led Chickasha with 24 points, mostly from fast-break layup and shots from inside the paint.
Back-to-back buckets from Christian Wassana, who sank 13 points for El Reno, had the home side up early. They led by as much as six before the Fightin' Chicks went off.
Colton Christian started on his path to 14 points with back to back buckets, the first a monster slam-dunk on a fast-break. It became the theme of the first quarter.
Caleb Nichols racked up three assists as the Fightin' Chicks beat El Reno in transition time and time again. The fast-paced barrage ended in a 15-0 run that put Chickasha in the drivers' seat.
The Indians found inspiration to hit back through Callen Hayden. He ended up leading the team with 14 points off of the bench, routinely weaving his way to the basket and wearing a path at the baseline in the process.
A three-pointer from Wassana had El Reno back within one point shortly after the third quarter, but Chickasha ended it on top. Senior Brandon Shumway snagged a rebound with a little under four seconds remaining and ran the length of the court for a layup at the buzzer.
The 8-0 run had Chickasha firmly in front. Shumway ended the night with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The only downside for Chickasha came from the free throw line. El Reno kept fouling to stop the clock in the fourth quarter, but the Fightin' Chicks didn't make enough count from the charity stripe.
Nichols sank the last four free throws with under a minute to go, though Chickasha as a whole went 16-of-25.
"This conference is tough," Pulliam said. "From top-to-bottom, there's not one easy team to play against. I've thought all along that if you can get through this without having everybody totally hanging you out to dry, you'll be ready when playoffs get here."
Chickasha faces Astec Charter at home on Saturday. The girls tipoff first, while the boys are scheduled to start at 8 p.m.