By BEN JOHNSON
Chad Walker has had two months to conjure up a starting lineup for his basketball team. Yet, Tahlequah will take on Skiatook tonight at the TMAC and Walker still hasn’t settled on a solid starting five.
It’s not his fault, though. He’s been battling with Mother Nature.
For instance, his likely starting shooting guard, Desiree Phipps, will sit out against Skiatook after dealing with a serious illness recently.
“Without one of our best players,” Walker said, “it’s hard to know what to expect.”
In Phipps’ spot will likely be Maegan Blevins, one of Tahlequah’s long-range sharp shooters that came off the bench last season.
“I’m still trying to decide [on the lineup],” Walker said. “It could be Casey (Beaston), Jhonett (Cookson), Randee (O’Donnell), Marisa (Girdner) and Maegan Blevins.
“There are several girls that we could go with (at the fifth starting spot). We have a number of girls we can put in, and we feel comfortable putting any of them in.”
If it is Blevins, Walker said it’ll be like having a coach out on the court.
“Maegan is very intelligent,” Walker said, “and you can’t go wrong with intelligent.”
Against Skiatook, Tahlequah is taking on a team that it lost to twice last season. However, Skiatook (1-0) is under the direction of a new coach (Tatum Beer) with almost an entirely new roster.
“I don’t know much about them; I know the mom had success running the 2-3 zone last year,” Walker said of Skiatook’s former coach Leah Beer, Tatum Beer’s mother. “Without Moyer, I don’t know what they’ll have.”
Skiatook ended last season with junior forward Correy Moyer set to return, but the now Texas State signee is at Verdigris after transferring. Instead, Skiatook will lean heavily on a pair of seniors, Eden Henderson and Jessie Henderson, and freshman Mikayla Schulanberger, who led Skiatook with 11 points in a 25-19 win over Claremore-Sequoyah on Tuesday.
Tigers to try and tame Skiatook’s shooters
Mike Leafgreen has a simple objective for his team against Skiatook on Friday: limit the Bulldog’s production beyond the 3-point arc.
“Skiatook is a team that can really shoot the ball if open,” Leafgreen said. “...We’ll have to play well defensively to be successful.”
As for the Tigers, despite losing two key inside presenceS from last year’s team, Spencer Risenhoover and Courtland Glock, expectations are high with Lain Wright returning at point guard.
“The players and coaches all have high expectations for this season,” Leafgreen said. “But we can’t be a team of potential, we have to take the things we’ve worked on and talked about and put them into practice. It’s been a long few months and everyone is ready for our opener with the Bulldogs.”
Depleted Indians ready to go
While Sequoyah players are trying to find out whether they’re eligible to play or not, Indians coach Jay Herrin is trying to piece together a lineup.
Earlier in the week, Herrin thought he’d only have a handful of players going against Stilwell tonight. Now, he thinks he’ll somewhere around 10 players ready to go in the Indians’ season opener.
“Not exactly sure who we’ll have to play,” Herrin said, “but we’ll go and give it our best.”
The more players Herrin at his disposal, the more he’ll be able to execute his game plan.
“A big part of our game is shooting 3s and playing fast,” Herrin said. “...But we might not be able to do that until everyone is available to play.”
Keys and Hulbert will continue on with their basketball seasons on the road. Keys will be at Miami while Hulbert will travel south to Warner.