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April 21, 2014

Ada News All-Area Basketball selections: Aaliyah Blakley, Christie Jennings reel in more postseason honors

Ada —    Christie Jennings is rarely at a loss for words. And a certain sports editor of the local newspaper hardly ever runs out of questions to ask.

   Those two things happened during our most recent discussion about Ada’s super senior Aaliyah Blakley.

   Jennings hears questions about Blakley and her talents all the time, many coming directly from The Ada News sports department. News flash: The girl can play.

   Jennings was informed that Blakley was named the 2014 Ada News All-Area Girls Player of the Year just minutes after the Lady Cougar hoopster had signed her official letter of intent to play basketball for Oklahoma Baptist University.

   “She’s got about every award you can get this year. It’s all really well deserving,” Jennings said after a few moments of silence. “She had a great senior season that just sums up a great career.”

   Blakley averaged 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Lady Cougars during a strong senior season. She’s an all-stater. She’s the school’s second leading scorer in 5-on-5 history with 1,405 points, behind only La’Neisha Caufield, who may hold the top spot forever with 1,776 points. She won many awards throughout the 2013-14 season.

   Blakley is the first Ada player to win the area’s top female award since Lauren Whitworth was the player of the year in 2008.

   “If you went and looked at her stat line, it’s not going to be much different the last couple of years. But our team got better. She learned not to force things so much ... because the players around her were more confident and could score in their own right,” Jennings said.

   Blakley also had 21 blocks shots and become a neutralizer in the paint.

   “Defensively she’s gotten a lot better, especially her man-to-man defense — knowing the rules and where to be when the ball is in certain places,” Jennings said. “She’s gotten stronger too. She’s developed an outside shot. I’d love to have her for a couple of more years.”

   While Blakley was impressive as an individual, the Lady Cougars were also outstanding as a team. They battled their way into the Class 4A State Tournament — taking down No. 1 and undefeated Fort Gibson to earn the trip —   to become the first girls basketball team from Ada to achieve the feat since 2006. Despite a slip-up (pun intended) against Anadarko in a first-round matchup, the Lady Cougars finished their special season with a 21-6 record.

   Jennings and company had put Ada back on the map. She was quickly named the East Coach of the Year by the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association. Who are we to argue?

   Jennings is also the 2014 Ada News All-Area Girls Coach of the Year. It’s the first time the charismatic coach has won the local honor.     Jennings was the coach of the year after sensational seasons at Stonewall in 2006 and 2012.

   “I think it speaks highly of how hard our whole team has worked and how far this group has come in two years and how they bought in to what we were trying to do,” Jennings said. “I’ve been blessed with amazing kids who aren’t afraid of hard work. We pushed them well outside their comfort zone, and they responded well to it.”

   Jennings has compiled a 40-15 record in two seasons at Ada and currently stands at 207 wins and 78 losses during her 10-year head-coaching career.

   Jennings is always quick to give her team its credit for any individual awards that she — and Blakley, for that matter — receive.

   “Everything we win, we win together,” she said.

   Jennings is excited to see what Blakley can accomplish during her career at OBU. She said the best may be yet to come.

   “She worked really hard and did everything it took to meet her goals, and one of those goals was to play at the next level,” she said. “I think she can take it up a notch. I think she has a chance to be even better than she is right now. I’m really excited to see what the future holds right now.”

   Ask Ada High girls basketball fans, and most will tell you they’re excited to see what the future holds for the Lady Cougars with Jennings at the helm.

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