Stephen C. Smith Sr.,Times Record News
Three months ago, Archer City’s Brittni Burks and Muenster’s Brooke Endres were enemies battling for the Class A Division I State championship under the bright lights of the Erwin Center.
Tonight, the two Class A All-State selections will represent Texas in the 2004 Oil Bowl Basketball Classic inside D.L. Ligon Coliseum at 6:30 p.m. as teammates, but more importantly, as friends.
“It’s still kind of funny to look back on that,” Burks said. “We still of kind of pick on each other out here, too, but it’s good to be able to play with her instead of against her.”
Although Burks and the Ladycats beat Muenster 43-42 in Austin, Endres relishes one more chance to share the court before she heads to St. Edward’s in the fall while Burks begins at Southeast Oklahoma.
“Yeah, Brittni’s going to be an Okie after this and I’m going to Austin,” Endres said. “So, this is probably our last run together and we want to make it a good one.”
State bragging rights aside, the game is also a showcase for three players heading for the Big 12 and five for the Lone Star Conference to include Oklahoma’s Cassidy Pillow (Central Oklahoma) and Amber Hammock (Southwest Oklahoma) along with Texas’ Kendall Reddell and Missy Davis (Tarleton St.) along with Burks.
Still, in order for the Texas team to win tonight, they’ll have to overcome Oklahoma’s height advantage and probable control of the offensive and defensive boards.
“What we’re going to try to do is open things up,” Texas coach Arnold Parker said. “We put in a fast break offense today and that’s going to be our primary package. We’re going to try and score our points that way.”
One of Parker’s players, Vernon’s Shanika Conaway, is very familiar with that approach to the game.
“They do have a height advantage, but that may actually work in our favor,” Conaway said. “We’ll be fast-breaking and pushing the ball as much as possible because of their size. That’s what we did at Vernon, so I’m used to it.”
Conaway, a two-time All-Region I-3A and Red River 22 selectee, is headed to Hardin-Simmons while Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt teammates Trenisha Williams and Richelle Parks are bound for Oklahoma State and Texas-San Antonio, respectively.
“It’s really good to be together and have fun together one more time,” Williams said. “We didn’t finish our season the way we wanted to, but at least we get to be on the same court together one more time.”
Williams will face two of her future teammates, Oklahoma’s Taleesha Conder and Nataly Gray tonight, but doesn’t plan to show them any special favors.
“Taleesha is my roommate here and Natalie has been really cool — I love my teammates,” Williams said. “But, I’m not going to be their friend on the court tonight.”
Oklahoma, which leads the all-time series, 2-1, may not need any favors though.
All-State point guard Jaime Forsberg of Jenks will key the Oklahoma attack that will look to work the ball inside and allow players like All-State selections ReQuecia Stephens of Tulsa Union (5-10) and Hammock of Drumright (6-1) to use their size to match Texas’ speed.
“We do have a slight height advantage,” Fitts said. “But since they seem to have the quickness, we’ll just try to take what we can get. A lot of it will just be feeling each other out over the first quarter and seeing how the game goes.”
Naturally, the Oklahoma players are approaching the game with just as much fervor as their Texas counterparts.
“I think it’s more of a pride thing,” said Forsberg, who led Jenks to the Class 6A state title. “To be picked to represent the state is different from being picked within. I’m just excited and I want to represent Oklahoma well.”
Hammock was a bit more direct.
“It’s a chance to beat Texas, that’s how I look at it,” Hammock said. “Any chance to do that is a good one.”
Still, Endres and Burks are hoping that playing the game in their backyard will give the Texas team an extra boost.
“This game has more of hometown feel,” Endres said. “More people that we know will be here to watch it and it gives us a chance to perform for all of them one last time.”
Staff sports writer Stephen C. Smith Sr. can be reached after 6 p.m. at 1-800-627-1646. Or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org