ALLEN — One week into the 2006 portion of what looked like a breakout season, the Allen Lady Mustangs got a wake-up call.

After five straight wins, a surprisingly lopsided loss to Konawa Tuesday reminded coach Greg Mills and his team that they still have some work to do in the four weeks before the Class A playoffs begin.

“Konawa was a little more physical than we’re used to, and they ran a lot of girls at us,” Mills said of the Lady Tigers, who had struggled through the first 11 games (despite a 7-4 record) after reaching the Class 2A state tournament last season. “We struggle a little bit with that style. The two games we lost (in starting the season 10-2) were to big physical teams (Stonewall handled the Lady Mustangs their other loss in the finals of the Pontotoc Conference Tournament).

“And we’re trying to play through some injuries right now,” he added. “When you have that many injuries at a school our size, it really cuts down on practicing the way you need to.”

Mills had just gotten Natasha Harris back from a knee injury when his daughter, Danli, suffered a minor knee injury of her own in the Konawa loss. In addition, point guard Jerrica Mullicane has been nursing a sore back, but Mills said this Allen team is better equipped to handle bumps in the road than the young group he took to the area tournament last season.

“We’re a year older and we’re a lot more experienced,” he noted. “This group handles stuff better. Instead of getting down after a loss, they’re ready to go play again right away.”

Just one day before the loss to Konawa, the Lady Mustangs had made their first appearance in the Class A top 20 (at No. 18) in two seasons, but they blew an eight-point third-quarter lead and appeared to tire in the fourth quarter en route to a 64-46 setback. Although Allen bounced back with a victory over Calvin Friday to improve to 11-2 on the season, Mills’ club faces another tough test on its home court in this week’s S.T.A.R. Tournament, which begins a six-day run Monday.

“If you win this tournament, you’ve got a pretty good team,” Mills said. “Everybody wants a tough tournament this time of year, and I think we’ll have one on the girls’ side of the bracket.”

The Lady Mustangs will play Caney at 7:40 p.m. Monday in the third of the S.T.A.R.’s four opening-round games, and top seed Stonewall — 17-1 and ranked No. 8 in Class A — will open the tournament in the other girls game Monday, facing Moyers at 5 p.m. Monday’s boys games have Tupelo meeting Moyers at 6:20 p.m. and Stonewall going against Caney in the nightcap at 9 p.m.

Tuesday’s girls games have Roff meeting Strother at 5 p.m. and Tupelo — No. 19 in Class B — facing the OKC Knights at 7:40, while Allen faces Strother at 6:20 p.m. and top seed Roff (15-0 and ranked No. 5 in Class A) wraps up the first round against the Tushka JV at 9 p.m.

Losers’ bracket games will be held Wednesday, with the consolation finals and the girls semifinals scheduled for Thursday and the girls third-place game and the boys semifinals to be played Friday. The boys third-place game kicks off Saturday’s action at 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by the girls and boys finals.

If the Lady Mustangs can survive their opening-round contest with Caney and a second-round meeting with the Roff-Strother winner, they could earn a rematch with a Stonewall club that beat Allen, 50-41, in their last meeting and has lost only to Latta this season. Mills said, however, that his team can’t afford to look ahead.

“Roff got a pretty good team, and Strother is no slouch,” he noted. “They beat us in district last year, and they’ve got most of their kids back. Two or three of the better girls teams in our area will be on the court here this week.”

Mills was a forward on Allen’s 1983 state championship team, and he spent his first nine years at his alma mater coaching both boys and girls. With his daughter a freshman on this year’s Lady Mustang squad, he turned the boys over to Monte Johnson so he could concentrate on the girls.

“I miss coaching the boys, but I’m still around them,” he said. “I was wanting to just coach girls when Danli got into high school. I coached everybody’s else’s kids for years, and when mine got to high school I decided I wanted to know who she was before she got out.

“Sometimes I think I’m doing a better job with the girls because I’m not coaching the boys, and sometimes I don’t know,” Mills added. “Sometimes I start thinking about it, and I get to over-coaching. I’ve got more free time right now than I’ve ever had.”

Danli Mills, a 5-7 guard, has been the major addition to this year’s Lady Mustang squad, and, despite her slender frame, she has brought a physical presence and solid defense to the team, along with a decent outside shot.

“Danli has her good moments, then she has moments when she’s a freshman,” Mills said. “I probably expect more than she’s capable of sometimes because she’s my kid, but she handles the situation pretty well.”

Although Danli Mills has a chance to be the next star in the Allen girls program, senior Kelsey Gee is the undisputed leader of this year’s team. Runner-up to Jennifer Grant for AEN Area Player of the Year last season, Gee is averaging 23 points and almost 10 rebounds through 13 games, and she is arguably south central Oklahoma’s most complete player.

“You’ve got to have go-to kids on any good team, and Kelsey is ours,” Mills said of Gee, a slick 5-10 guard/forward who combines a deft touch from 3-point range with an ability to rebound, play defense, drive to the basket and handle the ball against the press. “She’s a good athlete, she’s very competitive, and she has great practice habits. She works at it.

“I need to find a couple more than we can count on and we’ll be okay,” he added. “By playoff time, I think I will. Kelsey’s our leading scorer, but we have four other girls who can be our leading scorer on a given night.”

Mullicane, center Brittnea Nemecek and guard/forward Lorissa Skelton join Gee and Mills in the Allen starting lineup, and Greg Mills said each brings something positive.

“Jerrica’s had a good year handling the ball and setting us up in our offense,” Mills noted. “She’s fighting a back injury right now, but she won’t come off the floor. That’s the way all my kids are.

“Brittnea’s come a long way this season,” Mills said of Nemecek, a 5-10 senior. “She’s gotten stronger, and she’s capable of scoring and has some range on her shot. She’s a much better player than she was last year.”

Skelton, a 5-7 sophomore who was almost exclusively a 3-pointer shooter as a freshman, might be the team’s most improved player, however. She is still a dangerous scorer from the outside, but she has developed an inside game and, next to Gee, could be the team’s best rebounder.

“Lorissa does a good job for us,” Mills noted. “She’s playing inside as well as outside this year, and I think she likes it better. She’s one of our better passers, and she’s capable of scoring 20 points a night, depending on the situation.”

After the S.T.A.R. Tournament, Allen has a tough stretch to close out the season, including a home date with Stonewall on Jan. 31 and a visit to New Lima (ranked No. 3 in Class A) to close out the regular season on Feb. 7. Mills — who had his only previous state tournament team at Allen in 2002-2003 — said his team’s schedule the rest of the way should have the Lady Mustangs ready for a playoff run later in February and, perhaps, a visit to Oklahoma City in March.

“If people get up for us, that does nothing but help us get ready for the playoffs,” Mills said. “We’re a long a way from the season being over — a lot of teams have already played 15 or 16 games, but we’ve just hit the halfway point in our schedule.

“We try to start peaking a little during the (S.T.A.R.) Tournament, then we make a big push the first week in February,” he added. “This team can be really good, and I expect them to be really good.”