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Ike, Mac girls eye State tests

Local fans look to turn the Tulsa area into Lawton Northeast as they make the 3-plus-hour drive to watch history.

For the second time in postseason history, MacArthur and Eisenhower are playing in the girls basketball state tournament in the same year.

Even further intriguing is the potential for the two rivals to meet in the semifinals at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University.

But before they can do that, they must win quarterfinal matchups today.

The Mac girls face Coweta at 2 p.m. in the first quarterfinal of the day at Skiatook High School. They will be followed by Ike, who must get past an incredibly athletic Booker T. Washington squad in their quarterfinal, set to tip at 3:30 p.m.

Mac coach instilling mindset of contender, not mere participant

There are no real Cinderellas at this year's 5A girls state tournament. 

But for Mac's first-year coach David Vann, the trip has felt like a fairy tale.

"I still don't think it's hit me yet," Vann said.

Considering seven of the eight teams in the field were ranked in the top eight of the final OSSAA rankings, there are not too many teams left who would be flying under any radars.

However, the first game of the day might as well be dubbed the "clash of the unexpecteds".

That's not to diminish anything either team has accomplished this year, but considering neither program has a state championship and the Highlanders have not made the state tournament since 2010 and Coweta hasn't been since finishing runner-up in 2008, they are not exactly favorites entering the tournament.

Especially when Coweta enters the tournament with the lowest OSSAA ranking (No. 9) and worst record (14-12) of any team in the field. 

Coach Vann is not underestimating the Tigers, though, especially after they upset No. 5 East Central and No. 4 Tahlequah in the regional and area rounds.

"They have quite a few losses, but they lost to good teams," Vann said. "They got better toward the end. That's what every team strives to do."

The teams are very similar on paper. Like the Highlanders, the Tigers rely heavily on underclassmen. Each team starts two freshmen and a sophomore. Coweta gets just more than 30 points per game from their trio of Linda Brice, Hannah Meadows and Madison Wheat while Mac gets 28 from McKenzie Washington, Tamera Thomas and Erin Henry.

Wheat leads Coweta in scoring with 14.7 points per game, while Sydney Gunter leads the charge for Mac at 15.1 per game.

The biggest advantage MacArthur has might be its post players like Victoria Lewis.

"I think the only difference is we have a 6-1 girl," Vann said. "I just think we need to get Victoria going off the bat. I still think they have not played a team like us."

Vann said his team has accomplished a lot just to get to this point. However, he doesn't necessarily want his team to feel satisfied or to get complacent.

"What I'm worried of is them just being happy to be here," Vann said. "I'm proud of these girls for getting here. However, I feel like we like our chances against just about anyone, and I think we need to stay focused and not just be glad to be here."

Should the Highlanders win, they could potentially have a semifinal date with No. 1 Eisenhower, a team the Highlanders lost to three times in the regular season. Mac pushed Ike to a 55-52 decision back in December.

It would be the first time the programs met in the state tournament. Mac and Ike made the state tournament in 2003, but because Eisenhower was in Class 6A then, there was no chance of the teams facing off. Vann said he's focused on Coweta, but he knows what potentially lies ahead.

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