On the road to this year’s state tournament, Piedmont’s Lady Wildcats have twice had to defeat teams they’d beaten on multiple occasions in the regular season.
Piedmont completed three-game sweeps of Lawton MacArthur and El Reno to win Regional and Area titles, respectively.
When No. 4 Piedmont faces third-ranked Shawnee in its opening round game at state tonight at 7 in Skiatook, the Lady Wildcats will face a different challenge. This time, Piedmont (22-3) faces a Shawnee (21-6) team that’s handed the ‘Cats two of their three losses this season.
If it’s a challenge to beat a team three times in one season, like is the common perception, Piedmont is in a good position, head coach Jordan Stark said. She also dismissed any thought that this was a bad opening round draw for her team.
“I think the girls feel like they have something to prove because I think the girls know we didn’t play well against them, especially the second time,” she said. “I’m excited to see what our comeback is going to be. It’s almost like we have a little extra push to do well.”
In the first matchup, Shawnee won at Piedmont 44-40 in early December. The Wolves won 62-39 in both teams’ regular season finale Feb. 14. Both times, the Wolves’ inside play was a big factor which allowed their offense to find a rhythm. Slowing that down this time around will be a key, senior guard Kish Chandler said.
“That’s where we need to work the most,” she said. “And we need to push the ball when we have the opportunity.”
Chandler added a third key to the game, which is hard to argue with.
“We need to score more points than they do,” she said.
This is Piedmont’s third trip to state in the last four seasons, so with four seniors in the starting lineup it would be reasonable to assume this bunch is heavy on state tournament playing experience. Not exactly, though.
Piedmont’s leading scorer Maddie Sperle has the most. She played heavy minutes as a sophomore. Starting guards Hannah Reasoner and McKenna Kirkpatrick played some at state as sophomores as well, but Chandler moved in from Millwood in the offseason and has never played at state. Reasoner recalled what the experience was like and what she learned from being there.
“It was thrilling. My heart was pounding really hard,” Reasoner said. “The atmosphere was crazy. You have to stay calm and collected and play your own game.”
Piedmont is 8-1 in games decided by six points or less this season and the Lady Wildcats are 4-0 against fellow state tournament participants El Reno and Tahlequah. Their knack for winning close games against good teams has given the ‘Cats plenty of confidence heading into tonight’s game regardless of the opponent.
“Any time we’re down, one of us will bring us back up and say this is our time, this is our game,” Reasoner said. “We work together great and when we’re together we’re lights out.”