ENID, Okla. —
Northern Oklahoma College Enid women’s coach Scott Morris doesn’t hesitate when asked what’s the key to his team’s nine-game winning streak.
He credits sophomore point guard Chelsea Bates for her ability to distribute the ball to either a red-hot outside shooter or inside to All-American Marisha Wallace, an Oklahoma State University signee.
“I can’t say enough good things about her leadership,’’ Morris while the Lady Jets (14-5, 6-1) prepared for tonight’s Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader at Murray State (11-6, 5-2). KCRC will air the games.
“She has been the biggest key to our success this year with her ability to handle pressure and get us in our offense.’’
Bates, a starter on last year’s regular-season conference champion, said she’s “matured a lot’’ since her rookie year.
“I have to be a role model for these ladies than younger than me and the girls my age,’’ Bates said. “On the court, I’ve been making better decisions and stepping up to my role as a leader. I’ve felt I’ve grown as a person.’’
The Lady Jets, battling both injuries and a tough schedule, started the season 5-5. The team, which was ranked No. 9 in the preseason national polls, fell out of the rankings.
“I think that made us realize we had to get tougher and a lot better,’’ Bates said. “It was good that we played the tougher teams we haven’t seen before.’’
NOC Enid lost at Redlands 72-57 in the conference opener Nov. 19, but that could have been the turning point of the season.
“That fueled the fire, because everyone felt NOC Enid wasn’t going to be the same as we have been,’’ Bates said. “We wanted to prove to everybody that we’re just as good as the teams who made it to the final four. We have something to prove.’’
The Lady Jets have won nine straight since then, including six league victories. Murray State is a game behind tri-leaders NOC Enid, Eastern and NEO at 5-2.
“We’re coming together,’’ Bates said. “We have played a lot better together. I’m excited about where we’re going to end up.’’
Bates and Wallace, the returning starter, spent the early weeks of the season developing chemistry with the freshmen.
“I felt I had a little leeway last year, because I had the sophomores to guide me,’’ Bates said. “I have a lot more duties now. It’s up to me to run the show and get everyone else in the groove. It’s a big role, but I love it.’’
Bates, who is averaging 9.7 points a game, sees herself as a passer first.
“I’ve been told sometimes that I’m too unselfish and I need to take more responsibility for myself,’’ she said.
Bates hasn’t needed to shoot as much with the development of freshman Kati Sullivan, who had seven threes in a 76-50 win over Connors Thursday and five in the first half in a 84-46 rout of Western last Monday.
“She has really gotten hot,’’ Bates said. “It’s really good for us to have a shooter that you know can get the job done. I try to get her the ball as much as I can.’’
It’s another no-brainer to get the ball to the Wallace inside.
“All I have to do is to get her the ball ,and she’ll get it done for us,’’ Bates said.
Sullivan was slowed by injuries much of the first half. At one point, the Lady Jets had trouble getting enough healthy players to even scrimmage.
The team had a “good bonding experience’’ when they went on a retreat during the holidays.
“It was fun learning about each other,’’ Bates said. “We drew a lot closer during that time. We have been doing a lot of stuff as a team like movie nights. Simple stuff like that helps brings us closer together.’’
Bates, a Thomas native, likes to relax by fishing, primarily on farm ponds near her home.
Bates was used to playing in front of big crowds in sports-mad Thomas. At NOC Enid, especially on the road, she plays in almost empty gyms.
“I feel like I’m used to it now,’’ she said. “The freshmen are always saying there were way more people at my high school games than this. It’s hard, but if you love the game you get excited when there’s one person or thousand people in the stands. I just try to get everyone pumped up. We have to get ourselves enthused.’’
Bates has been thinking some about the four-year college she’ll transfer to after getting her associate’s degree. She is interested in Southwestern Oklahoma State but said she’s “just trying to figure out what school is best for me.’’
Jets look to bounce back
NOC Enid’s men (14-5, 4-3), who dropped out of first place in the OCAC with a 85-71 loss to Connors Thursday, will be looking to bounce back against the Aggies (7-9, 4-3). Murray State is coming off a 60-57 loss to NOC Tonkawa.
Jets coach Greg Shamburg said Murray State reminds him of Connors because the Aggies run a number of box sets. Shamburg said having no school today should help with the long trip.
Dalen Qualls leads the Jets with a 14.5 average, followed by Jeremy Espinoza (14.4) and Connor Brooks (13.1).
NOC Enid 6-1
Murray State 5-2
Carl Albert 2-5
NOC Tonkawa 0-7
NOC Tonkawa 5-2
NOC Enid 4-3
Murray State 4-3
Carl Albert 0-7