By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Will Rogers has emerged as solid contenders on the basketball court in recent years. This year is no exception.
The girls were on a seven-game winning streak as of the end of January, with an 11-4 record and ranked No. 10 in Class 5A.
The boys have overcome an 0-3 start and were 10-5 and ranked No. 8.
The Lady Ropers were among the teams that made the state tournament last season but didn’t get to play thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rogers girls coach Carlin Adkism believes that saying it was frustrating is an understatement, “Because I know how hard the girls worked. I know what the parents and the coaching staff had put into those girls,” said Adkism, who is now in his seventh year as coach. “They were four-year starters and they worked hard to get to that point in their basketball career. To give themselves a chance to go to state and win it, everything was looking good for them and to have it taken from them, it still bothers me to this day.”
Interestingly, Adkism told his girls one week earlier, “You never know when it will be your last game, whether it be injury, elimination by defeat or some other means. No one was thinking about COVID at the time. I was just talking on the lines of being injured or taking a loss. You have to go out your senior year and play as if it is your last game.”
The night before the first round of the state tournament was to be played, the NBA’s Utah Jazz was in Oklahoma CIty to play the Thunder. The game was postponed because two Jazz players tested positive for COVID. That led to the NBA suspending the rest of its season and chain of other cancellations in sports, including state.
“It brought COVID down here to Oklahoma and that was pretty much why the tournament was canceled,” Adkism said. “The kids were like, ‘Hey coach, you really did say that. It could have been our last game that we played.’ And so, it was tough.”
Lady Roper seniors from last year who took the team to state were Nikea Cullom, Devin Wright, Natorie Graham, who are now at Coffeyville (Kansas) Junior College, and Dei’janae Floyd, now playing volleyball at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.
“I want them to know I really appreciate the work they put in,” Adkism said. “They’re a great group of girls. That’s why they’re playing college sports now and I thank them for what they did for the program and I know they’re going to be successful women one day because of their work ethic. So I just want to thank them for all the things they did for the Lady Ropers program.”
As for this season, getting healthy, Adkism said, is the key to success. Rogers opened the season with three wins, but was 4-4 early last month. Most of the losses came to highly-ranked teams. Then came its seven-game win streak.
Senior point guard Jordan Payne, the only starter back from last year’s squad, suffered an ACL injury last June and had surgery the next month. The Lady Ropers were hoping for her return at the end of last month.
“Right now, we’re aiming to get healthy and play our type of basketball,” Adkism said.
Starters for this year’s team consist of Quinnae Love (5-5, senior, guard), averaging 16 points per game, Raegan McQuarters (5-5, sophomore, guard), averaging 15 points per game and is the daughter of R.W. McQuarters, a former standout at Booker T. Washington and Oklahoma State and Super Bowl champion. Julianna Matlock (5-11, sophomore, forward), Trinea Thomas (5-7, senior, guard), and Jerreyah Jones (5-6, freshman, guard).
Rogers also made state in 2019. So, it will be going for a third consecutive trip next month.
The Roper boys have their share of talent, which is why they’re in the top 10.
Starters consist of Marcal Johnson (5-11, senior, point guard) and Marquel Sutton (6-7, senior, center/forward), both who are averaging about 15 points per game, Terence Thomas (5-10, junior, point guard), Devonte Pruitt (5-9, junior, guard) and Antwane Johnson (6-3, junior, forward).
“We just have tremendous athletic talent and very good basketball players,” said boys coach David Winton, now in his fourth season as coach. “That’s the basis. We try to stay organized and we try to play at a high level, and we’re constantly teaching what we think is the official way to play basketball, which is an ongoing struggle.
Key players off the bench are Jordan Hunter (5-10, junior, guard/forward) and Landon Lacy, a (6-4 junior, center).
“Other than that, these guys play at a high level and high energy and I think their biggest gift is their attitude,” Winton said. “They’re going to play anybody, anywhere at any time.”