For quite some time, MacArthur had to play second fiddle to crosstown rival Eisenhower when it came to basketball.

But with the Mac girls making the Class 5A state quarterfinals in 2018 and the boys following suit last season, things appear to trending in the right direction on Lawton’s east side.

Both teams start the season tonight at Elgin, with the girls at 6:30 p.m. and the boys immediately after. Both MacArthur teams are ranked in the Class 5A polls, with boys at No. 5 and the girls at No. 11. With plenty of returning talent, both have expectations of continuing to climb toward the top of Class 5A.

Mac boys must deal with early-season absences

The Mac boys start the season shorthanded as three starters are out with injuries. But coming off of a trip to the state tournament, head coach Marco Gagliardi is confident that his team, when healthy, will be able to compete with the other teams in Class 5A.

“We are guard-oriented, again,” Gagliardi said. “We don’t have a ton of depth, but we expect to still compete, even with our injuries.”

Brandon Cowan and Leontaye McClennon are among those starters out, and both are expected to miss the first six games of the season. But with players like Danquez Dawsey and Earl Moseby, the Highlanders have players with experience.

Additionally, Gagliardi said he is bringing up some freshmen posts who he hopes to get minutes from.

While he had individual talents in the first two seasons as head coach, Gagliardi was finally able to field a state-tournament team last season. He hopes this becomes a trend, but knows his team must remain healthy to build an impressive resume come playoff time.

“We’re in a little up cycle, but these injuries are kind of hindering us,” Gagliardi said.

Mac girls look to lean on experienced group

Otis Gentry begins his second season as the head coach at MacArthur and has plenty of talent back.

Tamera Thomas and Erin Henry are seniors, while McKenzie Washington and Natalie Smith were key contributors on the 2018 state tournament team. The Highlanders added another seasoned player when Kamryn Simien came over from Lawton High, where she briefly played under Gentry. Her former-coach-turned-new-coach hopes to get plenty of good wing play, as well as some help at the point guard position when needed.

“She can sub in for McKenzie if we need her too, which is helpful,” Gentry said.

The Highlanders face a tough schedule, especially the start the season. After facing perennial Class 4A stalwart Elgin in the opener, MacArthur heads to a tournament in Norman where they will face plenty of tough competition. Then, the next week, they come home and play Piedmont. But Gentry does not shy away from the competition. In fact, he relishes it.

“It just makes us better,” Gentry said. “That tournament we’re going to, it’s basically al 6A schools. So it will be a tough challenge.”

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