They openly admitted it: They're nervous.

But it's nothing out of the ordinary, or nothing to be ashamed off, says Ardmore girls coach Kevin Kelly. He's OK with his young team's state of mind entering regional play today, especially with the wide-open nature of Class 5A.

Ardmore, ranked 15th in 5A, opens the playoffs against Northwest Classen, the start of a tournament that Kelly said is anyone's game.
Even Ardmore's.

"Right now, it's just who's playing well," Kelly said Tuesday. "Carl Albert goes over and loses by 10 to Lawton MacArthur and No. 1 Shawnee loses to No. 12 Chickasha Friday, so it just depends.

"On every given night, every team can come in, do things right and win a basketball game."

Kelly believes Ardmore is doing things the right way defensively, but has some work to do on the offensive end. Since rolling off three straight wins to close January, Ardmore (10-12) has lost three straight, all to ranked teams and all by 10 points or less.

"I think we're gonna play pretty good; we're kinda tired of losing," freshman Kyla Stapleton said.

All Ardmore has to do is win today and regardless of the result in the regional final Saturday, the Tigers are on to the next round. It's win and you're in, "one game at a time," said senior point guard Patrice Bennett.

Kelly is bringing the same mindset to Edmond today, with the one exception that he's looking for the ball to find the hoop a little more, too.

"I really think (what) it comes down to in the playoffs is do you get some bench scoring and can you shoot over 35 percent," Kelly said.

Northwest Classen enters the game 10-13, with back-to-back wins against Capitol Hill and Douglass. The winner of today's game gets the winner of tonight's No. 2 Deer Creek-Western Heights game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Bennett, playing in her first postseason game with the Tigers — her first postseason game ever — said the shooting must improve for the Tigers to have any chance to advance to areas.

"That's what's getting us right now, but we're getting through it," Bennett said of the Tigers's shooting woes.

"I'm really nervous, but someone once told me 'if you're nervous, it makes you play better.'"

Erik K. Horne