Lady Pirate senior duo disappointed about possibility of no state tournament
DALE – Eric Smith loved the chemistry of his Dale High School girls' basketball squad this season.
“We had a lot of depth and we were able to play a lot of kids,” said Smith. “They did a great job of working together and making the extra pass. We're not real big so we used pressure and forced teams to play the full 90 feet.”
However, that chemistry led to a premature ending for the fifth-ranked Lady Pirates, who perhaps saw their season come to an end after they were on the brink of participating in the Class 2A State Tournament against third-ranked Latta in Mustang on March 12.
COVID-19 or the coronavirus put a possible end to the 2019-20 season. The Dale girls' team was on its way to Mustang when it got word.
“We were on the bus on the way to Mustang, playing music and really excited about playing until coach told us,” said Jacie McClure, one of the Lady Pirates' two seniors. “He told us we're not playing anymore. We had to turn around and go back to the school. We were pretty bummed out.”
Dale's only other senior, Lindy Nowakowski, was not able to play at state anyway because of a torn ACL. However, she was just as disappointed.
“I felt sad as a senior because we worked all year for this,” Nowakowski said. “I knew with our teamwork, that we had a chance to make it back to the finals.”
Nowakowski said she wasn't complete caught off guard because of what happened the night before at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena when play was stopped just seconds before tipoff between the Thunder and Utah Jazz when it was learned that Utah star Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the virus.
That has since set into motion postponements and cancelations of events throughout the country.
“I really wasn't expecting it at that time. I thought we would go ahead and get to play,” said Nowakowski, who has already signed to play collegiately at East Central University next season.
Nowakowski is expected to be back in full physical form in July.
The closeness of the team, along with other fundamentals, were key to the Lady Pirates' success this year, according to Nowakowski.
“We're really close and it's not just one person, it's teamwork. We really play well together as a team,” Nowakowski said. “We pass it well, but our defense is what we really excelled at. We got steals before they get it downcourt.”
McClure attributed the team's success to togetherness and chemistry.
“We were coming together as a team and we played a really tough schedule, including some larger schools like Midwest City,” said McClure. “We played together as a team and we had some of our younger ones step up. We battled through when Miya (Miller) had an ankle injury and Danyn (Lang) hurt her ankle and then with Lindy's torn ACL. Our ability to adapt made us closer as a team and we found chemistry. That helped us out a lot.”
Smith was obviously disappointed, particularly for his seniors.
“We're severely disappointed at not getting to play (at state) so far. I think the longer this (suspension) goes and things keep being pushed back, the less likely we are to play,” Smith said. “We all would love to play because this is what you work for all year.”
Dale, 20-9 on the season, bounced back from an area finals overtime loss to top-ranked Vanoss, 73-65, on March 6 to rout 18th-ranked Allen, 67-31, on March 7 in the area runner-up game, thus earning a state tournament berth.
“We played the No. 1 team in the state to overtime so I know that we are right there,” said Smith. “With the knee injury to Lindy, our young kids did a great job of making the most of the situation.
“We took some lumps and losses this season but those games definitely prepared us for the playoffs. I feel for some coaches I know in other classes, like 3A, whose teams were set to play at state for the first time or the first time in a long time. I've been fortunate to be at places where we have been able to go more often.”