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Healdton's Howell reaches great heights with basketball upbringing

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
Healdton's Macey Howell drives to the basket on Saturday against Elmore City-Pernell. The senior tallied a game-high 22 points to help lead the Lady Bulldogs to a 55-42 win in the championship game.

HEALDTON — Macey Howell started playing basketball at a young age, just like many others, but the Healdton High School senior had the help of a familiar face during an important part of the journey.

“Basketball is my favorite, it’s always been,” Howell said. “My mom has pushed me. You can probably hear her up there in the stands. She’s been my biggest supporter through it all, ever since first grade. She was my coach first through fifth grade and then I got here, and she’s been supporting me ever since.”

That was no different on Saturday as Howell’s mother was there to see her daughter help lead the Lady Bulldogs to a 55-42 victory over Elmore City-Pernell in the championship game of the Bulldog Bash.

And Howell, the only senior on the team, was focused on winning it all before the tourney even started.

“From the very first game, we said we're defending champs," Howell said. "I expected nothing less."

She made sure of it, too, by leading all scorers with 22 points, highlighted by 13 in the second half to make sure Elmore City-Pernell didn’t make a late rally.

“They came back, but we just worked a little bit harder,” Howell said. “We had the intensity built up.”

And that says a lot about the Lady Bulldogs, who’ve played without head coach Mike Phillips for the past three games. He’s expected to miss three more and return to the team on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

“I was proud of our girls because they’ve overcome adversity,” said Healdton assistant coach Kelli Kana. “Their head coach hasn’t been here, so it’s been a little bit different for them to have to play without him. They won (this tournament) last year, so they kind of had this expectation upon themselves that they wanted to be defending champions. I was proud of them. I thought they did well.”

Kana also wanted to give credit to assistant coach Bobby Moore for his help on the bench with advice during in-game situations. And while Phillips may not have been there in person, he found a way to be with the team afterward.

“We called him in the locker room, and he congratulated them,” Kana said. “It’s killing him not being able to be here, obviously. But he’s watching it online and he gives me feedback after the game of what to work on for the next game.”

Those games are winding down for the Lady Bulldogs, and for Howell, who will soon lace up her sneakers for the last time with Healdton.

“It’s crazy, it does fly by,” Howell said of her high school career. “That’s why I tell my teammates all the time, ‘Don’t take any game for granted, especially with COVID.’ This is our only tournament to be in. You just never know when it’s going to be taken from you. But I’m glad these freshmen and sophomores are stepping up and helping out.”