By Evan Grice
Thursday afternoon will officially begin the second half of the season for Piedmont basketball.
And there’s no better way to start then with the Buckle of the Wheatbelt Tournament, which will be held at the Kingfisher All Purpose Building on the campus of Kingfisher High School.
On the girls’ side of the bracket, the No. 7 Piedmont Lady Wildcats will be entering with an overall record of 5-4 for the season, and are coming off the heels of a tough loss against No. 1 Shawnee last Friday night on the road.
For the Lady Wildcats, this tournament could be just the resurgence needed for them as they have made the finals the past two years in a row.
Piedmont’s first round opponent will be McLoud (5-6) at 4:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon. MHS enters the tournament after a close 37-36 victory over Bethel Tuesday night on the road.
“McLoud has a little bit of a size advantage on us,” Piedmont coach Jamie Hill said. “We know they are going to run a lot of zone defense on us. There’s a lot of talent in this tournament without a doubt. All we can do is take it one game at a time and try and get a win. Our biggest thing we need to do right now is close out games. We played for 26 and 28 minutes in two games at Bethany, and we need to play the full 32 if we’re going to win.”
Senior guard Alex Hall said speed is going to be key for the Lady Wildcats in the first round.
“We’re one of the fastest teams around, so we need to outrun teams,” she said. “When we do have the matchups of going against teams with bigger players, it makes us play harder. The way we work our defense is double teaming the post if they get the ball down low, which normally they can’t handle for long. We had some letdowns in the Bethany tournament, and we’ve discussed how we can’t let that happen this time around.”
Should the Lady Wildcats win they will meet the winner of No. 13 Heritage Hall (8-3) and Kingfisher (3-5) at 7 p.m. Friday night.
Other first round matchups in the girls’ bracket include No.20 Bethany (5-5) against Chisholm (6-5) and two-time defending champions No. 1 Okarche (14-1) going against Clinton (3-6) in the opening game of the day at 1:20 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
“Clinton is a tough team there’s no doubt,” Okarche coach Cherie Myers said. “They beat Kingfisher Saturday night, and they have some athletes. This isn’t a normal tournament with a one and eight seed. All of these teams are quality teams and all of them have solid players. We love playing in this tournament because it prepares us for the playoffs.”
On the boys’ side of the bracket, the No. 4 Piedmont Wildcats (8-1) will be meeting Clinton (1-8) in the first round of the boys’ bracket at 2:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
“Our message to the kids is taking it one game at a time from now on,” Piedmont coach Ryan Wagner said. “We’re making some adjustments right now. Sometimes when you see a team like Clinton you tend to relax a little, but we’re making sure that doesn’t happen at any point the rest of the season. We’ll get to find out really fast how prepared our team is for the rest of the season.”
A Wildcats victory will see them meet either Chisholm or Bethany in the semifinals Friday night at 5:35 p.m.
Other first round matchups will see McLoud taking on Kingfisher and Okarche playing against Heritage Hall.