Ardmore girls basketball determined to bounce back from early adversity

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
Khalayah Willis and the Lady Tigers open the season at home against Duncan at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30.

All squads experience adversity during a season. There’s no way to predict when it will happen, but it’s never good timing.

The Ardmore High School girls basketball team will be the first to tell you that, as the Lady Tigers have already battled illness, injuries and other issues before even taking the floor for the first game.

“We preach, ‘Every day is a new day, a new opportunity. Let’s go get it,’” said Ardmore head coach Debra Manley. “That’s just the way we have to look at it. Everything we’ve dealt with really has nothing to do with us. It’s just going to be about how we respond.”

The Lady Tigers showed they could bounce back from adversity a season ago when COVID-19 canceled several contests. Ardmore still finished 12-6 and advanced to the Class 5A Area Tournament.

However, this won’t be the same squad as the Lady Tigers lost four starters, including Reagan McCurley and Shakira Smith, who are playing at the collegiate level.

“We don’t quite have the size that we’ve had in the past,” Manley said. “We have a lot of young kids. We have some who were injured that are still injured, who we were hoping to get back. Then we lost two (current) seniors, who we were counting on, for personal reasons.

“We’re just trying to find the right mix and right chemistry because we’re playing kids who haven’t played in certain positions,” Manley continued. “Every day is a new day, so we’re just trying to get it together before the season gets here.”

Ardmore kicks off the 2021-22 campaign at home against Duncan at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30. The Lady Tigers notched a 65-57 win in last year’s meeting, and they expect to lean on the same high-tempo offense and defense this season.

“We’re going to utilize our quickness and our press, like we’ve done in the past,” Manley said. “But we’re going to have to shoot a lot from the outside, attack the seams and make some shots happen for us. And we have some good, quick kids to do that.”

Manley mentioned several to watch in that regard. Khalayah Willis returns for her senior year and is expected to be a 3-point threat, while junior Crislyn Booker will play the wing and is developing as a shooter.

There are also a few others to keep an eye on.

“Chloe Rucker is inside on the post — she’s a smaller post player, but she’s going to do a good job,” Manley said. “Charli Fuller is another senior who’s going to have to play big minutes at the guard position.”

With that said, Ardmore has its work cut out with a group that’s still adjusting to one another. Success might not happen overnight, but don’t count out this group of Lady Tigers.

“We knew we were going to do a little bit of rebuilding, but we were positive that we could get going by the time we needed to be ready,” Manley said. “It just might take a little longer now, but we’ll get there.”