Tata Lee and Christa Pickens don’t have a total. Ardmore’s two senior basketball players are well-versed in third-year coach Debra Manley’s playbook, preferences and style — yet the duo never began to count how often they hear one word: triple.
Pickens smiled before she answered.
“I’ve heard it since she (Manley) came here,” Pickens said. “That’s the main play. I know every time we come down the floor, when I don’t hear her, I know just to go right into that.”
Ardmore (18-5) sees a lot of zone defense because the Class 5A No. 5 Lady Tigers’ players tend to, collectively, have more athleticism than their opponents.
Claremore is the next foe. Ardmore will take on the No. 12 Lady Zebras at 8:30 p.m. today at Skiatook High School. Claremore (15-12) upset top-seeded Collinsville, 45-44, in an east area consolation championship game. The Lady Zebras have a second consecutive opportunity to win a state title — Woodward defeated Claremore last season as the Lady Boomers won a championship in their first season in Class 5A.
Meanwhile, Pickens makes her second state-tournament berth. Collinsville defeated the Lady Tigers in the 2015 state quarterfinals, Manley’s initial season. Discussing Ardmore’s opportunity, Pickens expressed optimism about the Lady Tigers’ path.
“I think this year, we’ve got a good chance to do it,” Pickens said. “Might as well just go ahead and do it.”
Lee is Ardmore’s other senior. She described the team’s opportunity with one word: amazing.
Chuckling briefly, she acknowledged she hasn’t counted. “She (Manley) says it a lot,” Lee said.
Lee is a shooter who can present problems for opponents playing zone defenses. Off the top of her head, she said she noticed Bishop McGuinness and Woodward as two Ardmore opponents “who don’t want to go all the way out to face-guard me.”
Asked how many times she said “triple,” Manley laughed. “A lot.”
“That’s our go-to (play) if we get in a bind,” Manley said of triple. “We get back in that because it just calms them down. Everybody knows it. They’re comfortable with it. Then, depending on our personnel or who we’re playing, we base everything else off that.”
Manley acknowledged that Claremore is more experienced on this stage. She referenced the Lady Zebras’ senior post player, Lauren Chancellor, who — according to the Owasso Reporter — prevented Collinsville’s Mallory Vaughn “from scoring the game-winning basket in the final seconds.” Chancellor also paced Claremore with 15 points.
Ardmore doesn’t have a post presence like it did two years ago — Faithlynn Piggee’s senior year. They crash the offensive board relentlessly. They have a sophomore who joins Lee as a shooting threat.
“You’ve got Sierra (Gordon) on that other side, that’s really come on and doing a great job shooting,” Manley said. “If they come out too much on them (Gordon and Lee), Pickens will penetrate. Then you’ve got J’Sades (Ainsworth) and Amaya (Gordon) hounding opponents in the middle.
“I just really now think that we’re coming around these last two or three weeks and jelling together as a team. We’re going to lace them up and go get them.”