(SPS) — If the hot chocolate, bowl of chili, or extra blanket isn’t cutting it, here’s something to warm you up during this stretch of brutal cold: the Chieftain Center will host two 2021 Basketball Regionals.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association released its brackets for the playoffs on Thursday which revealed the girls and boys of Sapulpa Chieftains Basketball were rewarded with home court to tip-off the postseason.
“We’ve played the toughest schedule in 5A boys basketball this season and to be able to play Regionals in our home gym is great, and gives us a lot of comfort being able to not have to travel,” said Boys Head Coach Rickey Bruner.
The teams on the schedule weren’t the only tough things about this season. The pandemic and weather have forced cancellations that have deprived both teams of a full-slate of practices and games.
“The outside world has been a challenge but we have kept things as normal within our program with a few minor adjustments,” said Girls Head Coach Darlean Calip. “We strive to create the same atmosphere and expectations within our locker room regardless of the results of this pandemic. We talk daily about the blessings we have and we focus on the positives.”
That approach has helped paved the way for the Chieftains basketball programs since the season started in early December to now, as the postseason nears.
The Lady Chieftains will face the East Central Cardinals on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. That game is preceded by the McAlester Buffaloes and the Memorial Chargers at 6 p.m.
Despite having the #1 ranked team in 5A, coach Calip said her team is not resting on their laurels.
“We had the opportunity to see them (East Central) early in the season and we have game film of several of their games,” said coach Calip. “The first game is single elimination. Therefore, it is a must-win and as always, we will respect our opponent.”
On the boys’ side, Region 3 begins with the Claremore Zebras and Tahlequah Tigers at 6 p.m. followed by the Chieftains and the Durant Lions at 8 p.m. Coach Bruner said Durant is a well-coached team made up of really good athletes.
“Durant has a good tradition of basketball and we respect them and look forward to having them at the Chieftain Center.”
Before the Regional begins, there are two more regular season games to play. Maybe. The incoming winter weather during the week of Feb. 15th, could mean additional disruptions for coaches Bruner and Calip and their teams to overcome.
“One thing we have figured out during this Covid Season is to control what we can control and this is out of our control. We will try and get in the gym as much as possible and try to stay sharp,” said Bruner. “Some of our guys will be able to heal up from some bumps and bruises and will be healthy for the postseason. We will have some team meetings over Google Meet, watch film virtually, text, phone calls, home workouts, and keep our minds sharp. We’ll do whatever it takes to be ready for the postseason,” said Bruner.
“We would love to play the last two regular season games but this team plays with great chemistry and love for each other. Anytime they can get together on or off the court, you feel the chemistry. I have no doubt when we do get back in the gym, we will pick up where we left off just as we’ve done all season,” said Calip. “The pandemic has prepared us for the interruptions, and as a positive from the disruptions, it has given our players some much needed rest and an opportunity to reflect and appreciate not only basketball but all that they have been blessed with.”
The Regional championship contests will be Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m. for the girls and at 7 p.m. for the boys. The winner and runner-up of each Regional advance to the Area Tournament for their chance to move on to the State Tournament.