Rejoice! Hominy hosts PHS’ hopeful hoopsters

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Last year’s Class 3A district basketball triumph at Chelsea may inspire some interesting reflections for the Pawhuska Huskies during this weekend’s quest for a 2A district title.

In the 2015 upset of the Dragons, the PHS squad used a fourth-quarter gut check and got strong senior leadership to take a 57-52 win over their hosts. Two key players in that victory — James Young and Hayden Henley — will be the veterans this time around.

As the new senior leaders of the Huskies, Henley and Young will need to fill the Air Jordans of the graduated Trent Barnett and Trey Redeagle — who practically willed the Huskies to their first district title in five years.

A big change will be brought about by the new 2A classification. Instead of needing to win one game for a district crown, the Pawhuska squads are going to need back-to-back victories on consecutive nights — Friday and Saturday.

This Friday, the Lady Huskies are to open the three-team district series with a 6:30 p.m. tipoff against the Lady Bucks at Hominy. A victory there (the PHS girls knocked off their Hominy counterparts, 49-12, less than three weeks ago at Pawhuska) and the Lady Huskies can claim their first district title since 2011 with a Saturday defeat of the Rejoice Christian Lady Eagles.

Hominy’s girls are 6-14 and should be at the mercy of the more talented and experienced Lady Huskies. That would only leave the Rejoice girls between the capable PHS squad and another district crown on Saturday night.

The host Bucks are 15-5 after losing to Pawnee, 63-31, last Friday. Only three days earlier, the unbeaten Black Bears had notched their 20th season victory in the Pawhuska gym by beating the Huskies, 74-52.

Pawhuska’s boys faded in the second half of their Jan. 30 home makeup loss to the Bucks, who made 19 of their final 21 free throws after missing nine straight in the opening half and claimed a 51-37 triumph.

In the past decade (and not including Tuesday night’s regular-season finale at Hominy), the Huskies (7-14) have won 11 of their 15 basketball meetings against the Bucks. (Tuesday night, both the Huskies and Lady Huskies were scheduled to conclude their regular slates at Hominy.)

Pawhuska’s boys have met Rejoice Christian one time. In January 2014, the Huskies clipped the Eagles’ wings, 46-36, in an opening round meeting at the Dewey Tournament. The Lady Huskies dropped a 30-29 decision.

This year, the Rejoice boys’ team is 19-4 and hold a No. 12 ranking in 2A. The Lady Eagles are 11-12.

PHS Lady Huskies coach Lauri Shatswell is confident her veteran-led squad can claim a district title by winning the Friday/Saturday district series.

Coach Mark Frye has led the Huskies out of a wilderness this season. A victory over the Hominy boys on Friday, would set up a Saturday title game versus the Eagles — one that the PHS boys are capable of winning.

A district sweep? Improbable, yes. But it is possible.