Brian Johnson Special Correspondent
After losing eight seniors off an unbeaten and Class 3A state girls’ basketball championship squad, the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs have navigated a ship through adversity so far this season.
Coach Toby Todd’s Lady Bulldogs are off to a 3-1 start and have been successful, despite missing their lone returning starter Bailey Eldred, who suffered a broken foot prior to the season.
To top that off, the Sulphur girls have been plagued by injuries to six players at different times this season, but they have weathered the storm.
“It’s a testament to our girls’ work ethic. They give everything they’ve got. I’m not surprised with our start,” said Todd, who guided the Lady Bulldogs to the 2012 Vision Bank Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic.
Todd’s Sulphur team, currently ranked 15th in Class 3A, will face Mount St. Mary, ranked third in Class 4A, in the opening game of the 2013 Mid-America Classic on Thursday at 3 p.m. at East Central University’s Kerr Activities Center.
“It’s going to be a tough tournament. We have had six girls with injuries, but we’re starting to get some back,” Todd said. “It looks like we will only have two out due to injury (including Eldred).”
Among the Lady Bulldogs’ major contributors so far is senior post Bailey Bruce, who is averaging around eight points and five rebounds per game, and Harlee Griffiss, a senior point guard.
“Harlee has done a really good job of running our offense. She’s a floor leader, who leads us in steals and assists,” said Todd.
Another post, Alie Saunders, has been averaging some good minutes and has provided quality play, according to Todd.
Todd has also been pleased with the play of sophomore Reilly Williams and senior guard and starter Katie Lancaster.
“Reilly led us in scoring in a couple of games. She’s played great defense and is real physical,” Todd said.
Mount St. Mary’s, the defending 4A state runner-up, enters the tournament with a 6-2 mark.
“They are very, very talented and have a lot of great scoring threats and play great pressure defense,” said Todd.
The Sulphur-Mount St. Mary’s winner will face the Ada-Lomega winner in the semifinals on Friday at 8 p.m. Ada, ranked seventh in Class 4A, and Lomega, ranked third in Class B, will square off at 8 p.m. Thursday in the first round.
The other side of the bracket has Tishomingo, ranked 12th in 3A, facing Shawnee, the top-ranked squad in Class 5A, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the opening round. Latta, ranked sixth in 2A, will meet Class A top-ranked Cheyenne-Reydon at 6:30 p.m. in another first-round game.
Action wraps up Saturday with the seventh-place game at 3 p.m.; the fifth-place contest at 4:30 p.m., the third-place game at 6:30 p.m. and the championship at 8 p.m.