Players to watch
Chieftains’ rising stars
Sapulpa freshman guard Stailee Heard said she’s been dribbling a basketball “since I was in diapers.” That’s not unusual when your parents were University of Tulsa standouts. Her father, Tony Heard, was the point guard on TU’s Elite Eight team in 2000. Her mother, the former Lila Osceola, still ranks seventh in Hurricane women’s career scoring with 1,301 points. Stailee has the speed and skills to rate as a premier collegiate prospect, already holding offers from Tulsa, Oklahoma State and Eastern Michigan. She joins 6-foot-1 junior Temira Poindexter, whose father (Ray Poindexter) was also a TU standout, and senior Ray Osborn in a dynamic threesome that could carry the Chieftains far.
Journey Armstead moved to Sand Springs after helping lead East Central to the 5A state tournament as a freshman, and averages 18.1 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 steals. On that pace, she will likely challenge Sapulpa’s Heard for Frontier Conference newcomer of the year.
Leader of the pack
Booker T. Washington’s 6A No. 1 Hornets (9-0) are loaded with Armani Reed, Carrigan Hill, Sai Johnson and Aunisty Smith surrounding versatile senior Wyvette Mayberry. Coach Rabu Leyva calls the ORU-bound Mayberry his Swiss Army Knife because “she can do so many things.” This year, she’s averaging 13.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 steals and was MVP of the Tournament of Champions.
Keys to success
Lexy Keys helped lead Sequoyah Tahlequah to 3A state titles as a freshman and sophomore and is gunning for another as a senior. The UT-Arlington signee went over 1,500 career points while leading the Indians to the prestigious Bertha Teague Classic title and averages 16.1 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 steals.
Teams to watch
Joe Redmond was Frontier Conference coach of the year in 2019 when the Redskins reached the state tournament for the first time in six seasons. Jayla Burgess, Kaylen Nelson, Takyla Pitts and Makenzie Malham lead a towering squad that allows only 36.7 points per game.
Gracy Wernli, Kate Bradley, Alyssa Nielsen and Meredith Mayes lead a rebuilt squad that seems better than its 4-5 record. The Spartans upset 6A No. 3 Edmond North and their losses are to 5A No. 1 Piedmont and four 6A top-10 teams.
East Central, 5A
Coach Gary Pitts said the early schedule wasn’t that difficult and the jury is still out, but T.T. Mitchell and fellow seniors Shay Stone, Ariaonna Mack, Jurnee Elliott, Tiffany Robinson, Breonna Blakley and Rashon Griffin have the Cards at 7-0. Mitchell scored 29 as they rallied past 3A No. 2 Christian Heritage 54-49 in the finals of the Chargers’ tournament.
Will Rogers, 5A
Nakia Cullom averages 13 points and Devin Wright averages eight rebounds to lead the speedy Ropers, whose 2019 state tournament appearance was only their second in 23 years.
Victory Christian, 4A
The Conquerors have the same suffocating defense as last year when they went to the state semifinals for the first time. OSU-bound Ruth Udoumoh averages 16.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. She and ORU volleyball Jaxie Wakley combine for four blocked shots per game, leading a defense that permits just 32 points per game.
Fort Gibson, 4A
Zoey Whiteley, Baylee London, Reese Webb, Kynzi London and Mallory Baker are top returnees for the Tigers, who haven’t missed a state tournament since 2004.
The gang’s all together again for the Warriors, who overcame early injuries last season to win the 3A gold ball. Autumn Hines, Grace Johnson, Mia and Sophie Bagby, Chasee Cooper and Atleigh Branham make Adair one of the state’s most experienced teams.
1. Is the best team in the Metro Lakes Conference really a 4A school?
Grove won last year’s title and is the only team without a league loss this season. Rory Geer was league MVP as a sophomore and appears to be on a similar trajectory as a junior.
2. Who are some of the other top girls players in northeastern Oklahoma?
Ponca City senior Baylee Fincher averages 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and four steals per game while shooting 43% from 3-point range. Chloe Martin averages 13.7 points and Erika Gruber averages five rebounds to lead Bartlesville.
Tahlequah’s 6-fooot-1 Kloe Bowin averages 12.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots and Faith Springwater averages 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Edison's Mariah Smith averages 19.5, six rebounds and five steals and has 726 points over three season.
Rylie Looney and Rhett Looney are Pryor’s top returnees and Linda Brice and Madison Wheat are Coweta’s top returnees. Both 5A schools are seeking a third straight trip to the state tournament.
Oologah’s Karly Wadsworth has more than 1,500 career points. She joined Kiah Purdunn and Baylie DeSpain in leading the Mustangs to fifth place in the Tournament of Champions.
Lizzie Shepard averages 20 points to lead Vinita and Lexy Borgstadt and Morgan Borgstadt lead Verdigris, averaging 11 and 10, respectively. Marley Jo Eaves leads Inola, averaging 13 points and 7.1 rebounds. Kelsie Roberts averages 10 poinits and 3.3 rebounds.
Kellyville’s Jade Upshaw averages more than 21 points per game and Metro Christian’s Landry Williams averages more than 20. Holland Hall's Joci Lake averages 15 points per game and Tyia Treleaven averages10.8 points and 3.5 assists.
Oklahoma Union’s Chesnie Hewitt averages 16.3 points, five steals and four assists. Caney Valley’s Paige Urquhart averages 11.9 points and 3.3 steals.
3. Will the OSSAA again select powerful western schools to compete in the eastern half the 6A postseason bracket?
The trend will continue as long as there are more western schools and they continue to dominate the rankings. The current breakdown is about 20 western schools to 16 eastern schools.
In Monday’s 6A rankings update, six of the top 10 schools were from the west. In last year’s state tournament, Union and Sand Springs joined six western schools on the bracket — unless you’re going to argue that Shawnee is an eastern school.