Eisenhower boys’ first objective: Stay 3 days
When you're making your fifth consecutive state tournament appearance and sixth in eight years, expectations are high.
Although the Eisenhower boys would love to bring home the school's second state basketball championship, they must get over the first hurdle.
The Eagles will try to do just that tonight when they play the Coweta Tigers at 8:30 p.m. in the Class 5A state quarterfinals in the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
Eisenhower (19-5) brings a seasoned bunch to Tulsa, with most of the players having been to a state tournament before. But for the first time, the players will get to play a state quarterfinal at the Mabee.
With the OSSAA rotating quarterfinal sites on a four-year basis, the 5A boys tournament will be played exclusively at ORU. Eisenhower coach Todd Millwee said the venue and tip time will add a unique flavor to the day.
"One good thing about it is you get to take in the whole experience of the state tournament," Millwee said. "It's a pretty unique atmosphere, and being the late game, we'll get to stick around and watch the other games and hopefully have a good crowd of people who are not just our fans, but who have stuck around all day."
The Eagles enter the tournament with perhaps the most balanced scoring attack of any team left in 5A. Four of the five starters average more than 11 points per game.
For the Eagles, that balance has been forged by a consistency and a trust among the players.
"I think it creates a good team chemistry," Millwee said. "They can all be engaged in the game. It's hard to scout because you can't focus on just one or two guys because we have five or six guys who can really score."
Team depth has been a calling card of Eisenhower's run over the past several years and this year has been no exception. The Eagles have routinely used nine or 10 players in games.
But against Del City in the area championship, Millwee elected to use only two bench players. The coach said it wasn't necessarily something he planned on doing and said he expects to use more of his bench this weekend.
"It's based more on the game situation," Millwee said. "But we talked about how we want to be here all three days. To do that, we'll probably ask our bench guys to play more minutes. We're going to need our sixth man, seventh man and eighth man to step up."
Coweta has been stout all season, despite being perhaps the least talked-about Tulsa area team at this weekend's tournament. This will be the Tigers' third trip to state in four years.