It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Teams that start three underclassmen aren’t supposed to put together 20-win regular seasons. Squads that have to replace All-Ardmoreite players like Abbie Wallace and Kenzie Hunt aren’t meant to earn regional championships.
And yet, here No. 6 Plainview (23-3) stands, nestled squarely on the fine line between absurdity and affirmation.
Affirmation, because Andy Bloodworth knew this was possible; he said as much a year ago, minutes after last year’s Indians squad had seen its season end at the hands of Washington.
“I expected us to be a 20-win team this year, and we’ve surpassed that,” Bloodworth said. “To be honest, these girls have come out and earned that.”
Taryn Callender, one of two seniors on the squad, admitted that while she was hopeful about the course this season could take. But it was not until the Indians, newly minted eighth in the 3A poll at the time, faced off with, and defeated, top 10 Tishomingo that she began to realize something special could be brewing.
“It kind of surprised me at the time,” Callender said. “It hit me that we could go to state this year.”
Plainview is now one win away from doing so, on the heels of earning the first regional championship in school history by knocking off Prague, the 3A state runner-up from a year ago, this past Saturday.
And while it may have slightly surprised Callender that the Indians have reached this level, fellow senior Jourdan Weatherford never batted an eye.
“I had full confidence that this team would be the best Plainview has ever seen,” Weatherford said. “We all click, and everybody has learned to support and take care of each other.”
Perhaps the biggest reason for that success has come from that cohesion among the squad. Weatherford and Callender immediately bonded with freshmen Rebecca Wright and Megan Shelton and sophomore Hayden Hunt, creating a balanced, fluid product on the court that has improved over time.
Such unity can be difficult sometimes, especially among high school girls of different ages. According to Wright, however, it never even threatened to be an issue.
“We knew they were going to be welcoming,” Wright said. “They want to win as badly as we do.”
Bloodworth has seen the maturation on the court, as Callender and Weatherford have integrated their experience and fierce desire for success with the talented freshmen.
“Those two seniors are true winners, the ultimate competitors,” Bloodworth said. “They hate to lose, and love to win.
“They knew right away, when the freshmen came up, that something special was brewing.”
One pleasant surprise has been the development of Hunt, as the sophomore has rounded out her offensive game and become one of the squad’s most consistent scorers over the second half of the year.
“(Bloodworth) said that in order for us to be good as a team, I needed to step up and contribute more,” Hunt said.
Hunt answered the call, ripping off back-to-back 20-point performances against Lone Grove and Madill to close out the regular season and keeping up her solid play during the playoff run.
The Indians will need all of it now, heading into a contest that will likely be against defending state champion Millwood. It will be the first time Plainview has faced a team of that caliber since a humbling road loss to Sulphur on Jan. 22.
Plainview has won 11 straight since then, but the lessons learned still remain.
“I think we’ll be ready for it, that we’ve learned how to prepare for it,” Shelton said. “That was a pretty big eye opener for us.”
Perhaps Hunt, a symbol of all that has come to define this improbable run, summed it up best.
“We learned that you can’t just show up and expect to win because you have ‘Plainview’ on your jersey,” Hunt said. “You have to put the work in.”
PHS experience, youth mesh during record run
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.