Ada — Second-year Ada girls coach is a veteran of the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic.
Christie Jennings competed in the annual holiday girls tournament when she was a high school player at Byng. She was latter an assistant coach at Byng during a Lady Pirate appearance. In 2006, she was the head coach at Stonewall when the Lady Longhorns ironically beat Ada for seventh place.
Jennings will be making her first trip as head coach of the Lady Cougars tonight when Ada meets Lomega in an 8 p.m. first-round matchup.
“It’s really special, first of all, because I’m from Byng. If you’re from Byng, Bertha Frank Teague kind of holds a special place in your heart, especially when you’re involved in basketball. I’ve played in the Mid-America, I’ve been an assistant coach in the Mid-America and I got to take Stonewall to its first Mid-America in years. It’s a unique situation for me,” Jennings said. “We’re really excited to have the opportunity to play in the Mid-America Tournament. We definitely think it’s a privilege and we’re going to try to show up and represent our area and Ada the best we can.”
Ada, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, is off to a 3-1 start — its only loss a six-point setback to Class 5A No. 1 Shawnee on the road. The Lady Cougars won two games at the Bethel Tournament last week before the championship game was scrapped due to inclement weather.
That cancelation may have a blessing in disguise. Senior Sami Jewett suffered a hip injury during a first-round win over Little Axe and didn’t even play in a semifinal win over McLoud. Another senior, Haley Dean, was also bruised up.
“It’s been a really strange first month of basketball. We never could get in a flow because we would play and the next game would be iced out ... we didn’t get to play the OBU Tournament and then went to the Bethel Tournament (last week). We kind of got banged up. We didn’t really play with all our core players,” Jennings said. “We wanted to get to play that championship game Saturday night, but at the same time it worked out best for us that we could get a couple of days off heading into Mid-America.”
Jennings has also been without the services of sophomore Devonee Simmons, who will get some playing time as a guard.
Jewett may not be at full speed today, but that won’t keep her off the court.
“Sami’s not going to be 100 percent, but she’s going to be good enough to play. I think we’re going to be fine. I think she’s excited enough and looking forward to the tournament and her adrenaline will probably take over,” Jennings said.
The Mid-America field, as usual, is a doozy. Jennings will meet a Lomega team that is No. 3 in Class B and enters the tournament with a 9-2 record. Also on Ada’s side of the bracket is defending Mid-America champ Sulphur (No. 15 in Class 3A) and Class 4A powerhouse Mount St. Mary, ranked No. 3.
“I think all eight teams are really quality teams. Cheyenne and Lomega are year in and year out at the top of their classes,” Jennings said. “And you have Sulphur returning as the defending champions. They’re a little banged up right now ..., but once the tournament starts, they will come into their own. We have Shawnee on our schedule and know how loaded they are.”
The other side of the bracket includes Shawnee, Cheyenne (No. 1 in Class A), and local heavyweights Latta (No. 6 in 2A) and Tishomingo (No. 14 in 3A).
“I think one of the things that makes this year’s tournament special is that you have what you could consider four local teams (Ada, Latta, Sulphur and Tish) that are really playing well and headed in the right direction,” she said.
Whatever happens over the next three days, Jennings said every team involved will benefit from playing in the 2013 Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Class, sponsored by Vision Bank.
“Having been around it for so many years, I understand the complexity of it. You can go and play and get three losses and it will make you a better team. I haven’t seen any team go to the Mid-America and not come out better because of being a part of it,” Jennings said.