Ada High girls team prepares for Big Monday

Jeff Cali, The Ada News, Okla.
·4 min read

Feb. 20—This basketball season has been like no other for teams all across the state and the Ada Lady Cougars are no exception.

Ada has tried to dodge COVID-19 all year — including canceling its final four regular-season games for a better chance to stay out of quarantine before the playoffs start.

Over the last week, the Lady Cougars and nearly every other team in the state have been forced into a very different type of quarantine — blizzard mania.

Snow and ice have covered the state since the weekend, forcing the start of big-school basketball playoffs to be pushed back until next week.

Ada will host Stigler in a girls and boys Class 4A District Tournament Monday night inside the Cougar Activity Center.

It's been quite the ride for the Lady Cougars to get to this point.

"Oh my goodness. This whole year has been a struggle. It's been really difficult," Ada girls coach Christie Jennings told The Ada News during a snow day earlier this week. "We're just excited to be healthy and have a chance to play. It seems like forever since we've had a chance to play a game."

That's because it almost has. Ada dumped Durant 76-35 in a home game on Feb. 5. When the Lady Cougars return to the court on Monday for their battle with the Lady Panthers it will have been 17 days between contests.

During the two rounds of snow that blanketed the state last week, Jennings and company got together just once. Most of her roster was able to have a practice session on Tuesday.

"We had 10 of our 15 there and were able to get a pretty good workout in," she said.

"We've just been sending the kids home workouts and trying to get them to stay in shape," she added. "They're going to come from several days off to playing districts and regionals in the same week. That's hard on their bodies. We're just fortunate we get to be at home for all those games. I'd hate to be traveling on top of all that."

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association pushed back Class 2A-4A Districts from Friday and Saturday of this week to Monday and Tuesday of next week due to the snowy roads all across the state.

"I think the OSSAA made a great decision there. I know it was a hard call because the small school playoffs are even crazier than ours," Jennings said.

Jennings has spoken to plenty of her coaching peers due to the unwanted downtime caused by the weather and nearly everyone is going through the same difficulties.

"Just talking to coaches all across the state — when you're stuck at home you call each other — almost everyone I talked to was snowed in. They couldn't practice. For the most part, everybody was in the same boat."

Jennings will work her team out all three days this weekend — Friday, today and Sunday — to prepare for the Class 4A gauntlet her team is about to embark on. The Lady Cougars are ranked No. 13 and are 14-5 heading into district play.

Stigler is no slouch. They've won eight of their past 10 games and enter Monday's fray at 12-5.

"Even our district game is pretty tough. When the playoff (pairings) came out, Stigler didn't have a whole lot of games under their belt," Jennings said. "I don't know that's who we would have gotten if they had. They're certainly not a bad basketball team. We're going to have to play good."

Should Ada win a district crown, waiting in the wings would be No. 10 Blanchard in the first round of a 4A regional tournament and a likely showdown with third-ranked Tuttle in a regional title game.

"Every game we play is going to be a challenge and we can't have any letdowns," Jennings said. "We're going to preach to our kids that it's a brand new season and everybody starts 0-0. We're going to try and survive and advance. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to get done."

Ada's area tournament will be played at Checotah High School. The last time the Lady Cougars played in an area tournament in that town (2014), they earned a trip to state.

"Obviously we would love to win out and be in the winner's bracket, but I also have done this long enough to know that there's more than one way to get to the state tournament," Jennings said.

There's just no easy way.