The Allen and Vanoss boys and girls basketball teams will meet Friday night before what should be a packed house inside East Central University’s Kerr Activities Center, with regular-season Pontotoc Conference championships on the line.
That alone is enough to add a little extra spice to the games between the two local rivals.
The Vanoss boys enter the game with an ultra-impressive 32-game regular-season conference winning streak at stake too.
(Video? What video?)
Needless to say, it should be a fun, emotionally charged night of basketball.
After Friday night, the Wolves and Mustangs should be able to forget about one another as their focus turns toward the playoffs.
Except the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association made sure they can’t.
Just a week later, the Allen and Vanoss boys are forced to meet again in a game with far greater stakes — in a Class 2A District 7 (Area III) first-round contest at Wewoka High School. The loser of that contest will be one and done. And that’s a crying shame.
Allen coach Greg Mills and Vanoss coach Jonathon Hurt both deserved better fates.
Allen is currently 14-6. Five of the Mustangs’ losses were to ranked teams from Savanna, Roff, Kiowa, Earlsboro and Latta. The only other AHS setback came early in the schedule to an always-competitive Stonewall club. Allen has won seven of its past nine games, with the only losses during that stretch to Class B No. 1 Earlsboro and Class 2A No. 2 Latta.
Vanoss is sitting (at the time of this writing) with a not-too-shiny 13-9 record, but it has played a brutal schedule that includes 12 ranked teams. Seven of the nine losses have come at the hands of those ranked foes.
And to make matters worse, the survivor of that district battle has to turn around 24 hours later and play No. 5 Wewoka (15-6) on its own home court — a daunting task for any basketball team.
I don’t think anyone saw this brutal first-round matchup coming.
“I was very surprised. I feel that three quality teams were put in the same district. We better be ready to play when we walk in the gym at Wewoka,” Mills said.
Hurt said it was a bad draw for both teams and their fans.
“The Allen boys are tough. In my opinion, you have two of the top five or six teams in the whole area playing in the first round of districts, and one of them will be done. That’s just unfortunate,” Hurt said. “It’s a tough draw. It always is. That’s why we play such a tough schedule. My players will be ready and compete. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
I always hate to see local teams beat up on one another in the playoffs, but it’s bound to happen from time to time. But I can’t remember having two quality teams the likes of the Allen Mustangs and the Vanoss Wolves having to meet in the first game of the playoffs, with the loser having to prepare early for baseball season.
It’s just terrible. Good luck from this sportswriter to both squads. I hope the winner makes a long, long playoff run.
The entire Area III bracket is full of landmines. Also included in the same regional as the Mustangs and the Wolves is No. 19 Healdton, which may be underrated. The Bulldogs are 19-2 and will likely enter the playoffs on a 13-game winning streak.
Coach Mark Qualls and the Stratford Bulldogs are also in the regional and could be a tough out, especially if Landon Wood gets going from 3-point territory.
The second-ranked Latta Panthers, under the direction of Matt Bryant, are also in Area III. The Panthers (18-4) have their sights on another state tournament berth.
“Just like in years past, (Class) 2A is very deep. There are many good teams,” Bryant said. “The toughest part of our draw is we are going to have to go on the road and play some very good teams in their gyms. If we can continue to improve and focus on what has helped us be successful, we should be able to make a good run during the playoffs.”
No. 10 Amber-Pocasset (19-4) is also in Latta’s regional.
Girls, girls, girls
The OSSAA didn’t do the ninth-ranked Vanoss Lady Wolves any favors either. Allen and Vanoss will likely battle for the district title, and the Lady Mustangs are 16-4 on the season.
Top-ranked Christian Heritage and No. 18 Rush Springs are in the same regional, which is a little crazy, and Area II also includes No. 8 Navajo and No. 17 Amber-Pocasset.
Latta and Wynnewood are likely to square off for a Class 2A District title in that loaded area as well. The Lady Savages, under the direction of veteran head coach Rhonda Fields, are currently 18-3 on the year.
Coach Bruce Plunk’s Lady Panthers have had a bit of a roller-coaster season, but I guarantee you no one in Class 2A will be excited about playing them when they are clicking. Just ask Class 4A No. 1 Harrah.
“There is no easy path, so we will just be ready for whoever we have to play and do the best we can,” Plunk said. “It’s very similar to last year. When we get sent southwest, we run into teams that we don’t see during the regular season. You spend more time scouting and watching film to get prepared.”
A look at Area IV
Local teams Coalgate and Konawa are in the Class 2A Area IV bracket.
The Konawa girls (16-5), ranked No. 20 in Class 2A, will have to contend with No. 6 and unbeaten Mounds (20-0) and No. 13 Savanna (19-1) in their regional. Also in that area are No. 4 Howe (18-3) and No. 12 Tushka (21-3).
The Coalgate girls are 8-10, but wily head coach Lance Weeks, who also directs the CHS boys team, will have his squad ready for battle.
The Wildcats (10-8) will have to contend with No. 6 Talihina (16-5) in 2A District action, while the KHS Tigers (12-9) have a possible showdown looming with No. 17 Savanna (18-2) in regional play.
Other ranked boys team in Area IV include No. 1 Wright City (20-2), No. 11 Rock Creek (17-5) and No. 16 Howe (14-6).