Ardmore girls basketball poised for another run to state tourney

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

There’s no telling how far the Ardmore High School girls basketball team could have made it during last season’s Class 5A State Tournament. The Lady Tigers finished 19-4 in the regular season before winning three more contests to clinch a berth in the state tourney.

Unfortunately, that’s where the run ended due to COVID-19.

Those issues could show up again, but Ardmore is focused on what it can control during the 2020-21 campaign.

“We always stress about winning and stuff, but right now we’re stressing about playing our best ball that day and then tomorrow we’ll see what happens,” said Lady Tigers head coach Debra Manley. “We’re just going to have to take it one day at a time because it is a weird year. We just have to focus a little different on the season.”

Ardmore has already dealt with the negative effects of the pandemic as the Lady Tigers were recently quarantined. It won’t be easy to make up that lost time, especially since the season opener at Duncan is right around the corner.

“We open up Dec. 1 and conditioning-wise, we’re not going to be ready because we were off for two weeks,” Manley said. “We’re just going to have to do our best. We’ve talked about that. Everyone is going to have to play different positions, have a role and get after it.”

Only time will tell how Ardmore adjusts to the situation, but an experienced group of upperclassmen should go a long way in carrying over the success from last season.

“We have five seniors this year, so we have good leadership,” Manley said. “Reagan McCurley is our big post inside. Shakira Smith started for us last year and Tiona Cohee played a lot of minutes. Then we have Dajerea Clark and Ahlyra Anderson. Ahlyra has come off knee injuries the last two years and hasn’t played. We’re hoping we get big minutes out of all those kids.”

Manley also said the Lady Tigers have a good core of juniors. They should provide depth, but the biggest question will be how fast they can get in basketball shape.

“I told the kids, ‘We’re probably going to take it on the chin a couple of times because we haven’t had as much practice as thought we would yet,’” Manley said. “But it’s not how we start, it’s how we finish. As long as we’re playing our best basketball in February, that’s really all that matters.”

Ardmore’s February starts with a home game against Duncan, followed by contests with McAlester, Eisenhower and OKC Storm. However, the ultimate goal is a trip north.

“We expect to be in Tulsa,” Manley said. “We don’t really settle for anything less. We hope to make that happen again this year, too. It’s just going to be a little bit different.”

However, there is one thing that should help the Lady Tigers quickly adjust the uncertainty they could face this season.  

“The girls all get along really well and play unselfish — that’s always a positive,” Manley said. “They’re just good kids. The other part of that is when we start subbing in to rest people and try different dynamics, we have to get that chemistry. And keep that chemistry going. That’s probably one of the biggest factors we’re trying to work on.”