By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
COACHING DISCUSSION: Tina Thomas, left, gives her team a pep talk during a game timeout.
Courtesy Bixby Athletic Dept.
After a pair of struggling seasons under .500, Bixby is a power for the first time since finishing as state runner-up in Class 6A girls’ basketball in 2013. As of mid-January, the Spartans were 11-3 overall, 4-1 in the Frontier Conference and ranked 13th in the state.
Under the guidance of third-year coach Tina Thomas, who coached Sapulpa to three consecutive finals in the 1990s, including a state championship in 1998, Bixby has captured major wins against Owasso in its season opener and Deer Creek, currently ranked fifth and 10th, respectively, and were 6A runners-up in 2016 and 2017.
There is an array of talent and weapons in the Bixby lineup.
“We have a lot of kids who have been with us for three years and are the backbone carrying this team through some hard times,” Thomas says. “They have persevered and worked really hard and developed skills and bought into the system.
“We have a lot of new faces as well as the workhorses we have had,” Thomas adds.
Maddie Bittle (5-9, senior) leads the team averaging 16 points (50 percent in 2-point baskets, 30 percent in 3s and 81 percent in free throws), 2.5 assists and seven rebounds per game. She has been a starter through Bixby’s tough times. Sydnee Schovanec (6-0, junior), a move-in from Rejoice Christian in Owasso, has also been a key force and has led the team in scoring in some games.
“Maddie is leading us in scoring in almost every category. She is providing excellent leadership,” Thomas says. “She is a 3-point shooter who gets to the hole like none other and plays the best defense of anybody in the conference. Sydnee Schovanec is a great addition to our squad. She likes to get up and down the court for us. She is really athletic, plays good defense, and she can score the three and do post moves.
“Then we have a couple of freshman that have really changed the dynamic: Kate Bradley (5-6) and Landry Williams (5-7), who get a ton of minutes,” Thomas says. “Every time (Williams) steps on the floor, people we are playing are saying, ‘there’s the shooter, the shooter, the shooter.’ She can knock down the three from various ranges,” Thomas says.
Bradley is another strong point guard who sees the floor and handles the ball well, Thomas says. “She can go to the hole. She’s good at knowing her role. She’ll shoot when necessary but not overly aggressive. She is a true team player.”
Sarah Tyree (5-10, senior) is another key to the Spartans’ scoring. Thomas says she has called her “Ms. Consistent” the last two years.
“You can count on her for eight or nine points and eight or nine rebounds, night in and night out. She may surge a little above or a little below, but she is really consistent for us,” Thomas says.
Dariann Myles (5-5, junior) is also back in action after being out last year with an injury.
“She worked like a dog to get back. She spent extra time in the gym morning, noon and night,” Thomas says. “She is a point guard who sees the floor, handles the ball well and can shoot the three. Passing is her biggest asset.”
Other contributing players include Savanna Stout (5-9, junior), a starter from last year who is getting tons of playing minutes and has finished on top in points in some games, Kenedy Brown (5-11, junior), a post player “who comes off the bench and gives us valuable minutes,” Thomas says, and Sydney Page (5-9, junior). “She’s struggling with an injury this year, but I think she’ll be back strong,” Thomas adds.
“Savanna has a nose for the goal. I love how she gets to the hole. She plays excellent defense and is one of our strongest rebounders,” the coach says. “Sydney is good with movement without the basketball, so, she is a good cutter and she finds a lot of seams for us. She can also knock down the 3.”
And there are sophomores, Cailin Masters (5-2) and Avery King (5-10).
“They’re solid. They work hard and they’re coming along. Their time is coming,” Thomas says.
Staying healthy and team chemistry will be important for Bixby to go far in the postseason.
“We’re learning to win, because we have come through a couple of brutal seasons,” Thomas says. “We must keep our composure and keep it together at the end of the game.”
Sand Springs, Bartlesville and Owasso are the toughest teams Thomas sees in the Frontier Conference.
“All the rest of the teams are very competitive too, but those are probably the three top dogs,” Thomas says. “This team can accomplish a lot this year. What they accomplish depends on how they bond. They’ve bonded well.”