GIRLS BASKETBALL: McAlester preps for return following champ season

Nov. 23—After a magical season last year, the slate is wiped clean as the Lady Buffs are preparing to run it back.

McAlester girls basketball is returning to the hardwood this season as the defending 5A State champion — and players know they have their work cut out for them.

Senior Jayda Holiman said preseason practices have been going well, especially with the bevy of new faces to the program.

"It's been going really good. We have a lot of new in-comers, but they've hopped right into the motions," Holiman said. "We're learning how to play with each other, so it's going to be good."

The Lady Buffs will open the regular season on Nov. 29 as McAlester hits the road at Hugo, before returning home to host Broken Bow at Bob Brumley Gymnasium on Dec. 6.

Holiman is the top returning scorer, averaging 12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game last season.

She is also one of many veteran members of the McAlester squad, alongside the likes of Jada Ponce, Kynli Jones, Jalen Spears, and more.

This team will look different, Spears said the players will bring the same determination coach Jarrod Owen built into the program.

"We're not the same team as last year. So you have to learn how to play with this new team," she said. "Even if you're on the bench, you are still so much part of this team."

Jones said she remembers that the Lady Buffs were in a similar situation last season,

"That's what it took at the beginning of the season last year was just learning everything and what it took (to win)," she said. "So when you know your role, and the other players know their role, there's no stopping you."

The Lady Buffs aren't afraid of the challenges they'll face this season — instead, they're embracing it. They know it's going to take a lot of hard work to defend last year's title, but as Jones pointed out, McAlester has proven it works well under pressure.

"It's definitely nerve-wracking, because you know you want to defend that," Jones said. "I think people look forward to playing us because they want to beat us and have that bragging right.

"It's a lot of pressure," she added. "But I think we can come out on top again."

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