Returning victorious from Christmas break, the Lady Eagles picked up the regular season battling foes in Abilene and Austin this past week.
The Lady Eagles played four games over the break and continued a winning streak until faced with the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.
The controversial loss did not faze the Lady Eagles, however, and they defeated McMurry University the following game.
The Lady Eagles matched up with McMurry on Jan. 10 with a new approach for the game in mind. They found success by having everyone score evenly, instead of just one player standing out.
“I was really proud of the balanced attack,” Head coach Stephanie Findley said. “Our point guards did a great job the second half of organizing us, and the team followed with good execution.”
Senior Krista Stevens agreed, emphasizing that this was a great approach they will continue to implement during the season.
“I think a balanced scoring tactic is something that is very beneficial,” Stevens said. “Because if everyone is scoring and putting up numbers like we were, it is very hard for the defense. Everyone is a threat to them, and they can’t just focus on one or two players that are doing all the scoring.”
The reason the Lady Eagles took this approach is that the team had not faced a Heartland Conference rival yet, so no one knew exactly what to expect. However, not knowing the opponent doesn’t always work against a team; in fact, it may have worked in Oklahoma Christian’s favor.
“We didn’t know too much about McMurry. We were just starting our conference play and we hadn’t played any of the teams yet,” Stevens said. “It’s kind of like a clean slate for both teams.”
McMurry couldn’t quite handle the balanced scoring effort or extreme momentum of Oklahoma Christian. A huge 19-6 scoring run after halftime helped the Lady Eagles keep their significant lead.
“It gave us confidence, and after that there was no question that we were going to win,” senior Madison Middle said.
Even though everyone contributed point-wise, it seemed there was still a standout in the second half. A seven-point scoring effort by Middle sealed the deal for the Lady Eagles and the game ended with a score of 69-54.
“[Madison] went into the game and worked hard, as she always does, made her shots, and pretty much did everything right,” Stevens said. “She came into the game like she had been warmed up and had been playing the whole time. She did a really good job jumping right into the game and contributing to the team.”
Each player filled a role in winning the game against the Lady Eagles’ first conference foe. Senior Katy O’Steen and freshman Sydney Hill each had nine points, Stevens and freshman Jasmine Hinton both finished with eight points and Middle and sophomore Makenzie Brown each had seven.
Junior Roz Hamilton and sophomore Kaitlyn Morris each contributed six, freshman Daisha Gonzaque had three, juniors Mica Havens and Andee Wayne and freshman Aisha Martin all contributed two points.
After a day of travel, the Lady Eagles stopped in Austin to play St. Edward’s University. However, the Eagles were not quite in sync for their game against the Hilltoppers.
“I don’t think we were necessarily mentally prepared for the game, and we didn’t bring the work ethic we did in the McMurry game,” Stevens said.
The Hilltoppers shot 11-17 from the three-point line. Unusually out of form, the Lady Eagles were only able to hit 9-21.
Unfortunately for the Lady Eagles, not only did St. Edwards shoot 67 percent from the three-point line, they were also able to defend Oklahoma Christian’s O’Steen so well that she only scored six points.
With the top scorer shut down, Hamilton was forced to pick up the slack and excelled, scoring a career high of 19 points. The Eagles know what to do the next time they face St. Edward’s, and plan to be better prepared defensively.
“The three-pointers killed us in that game,” Stevens said. “We will have to rebound better too, but most importantly we just need to play better defense. We can’t give them open looks and those extra rebounds that create extra chances to score.”
The Hilltoppers eventually pulled away for good and ended the game at 77-64, splitting the Lady Eagles exhausting road-trip series 1-1.
“We were sluggish moving on defense,” Findley said. “We were sluggish in the way we were executing our offense. It may just be part of the travel, or it may be the conditions we traveled in. But we’ve got to try to figure out how we want to do these road trips in the future.”
Sophomore Logan McKee ended the game with 11 points, Hill with 10, Stevens with seven, Morris and Wayne with four, Hinton with two, and Brown with one.
The Lady Eagles are looking to adjust to their conference to find success in the remaining games.
“We are continuing to learn more and more about our conference, and we will take what we have learned to our next meeting with them,” Stevens said.
Currently, Oklahoma Christian is ranked 24th out of the 57 teams in the NCCAA; a few of the universities the Lady Eagles are ahead of include such names as Fresno Pacific University, York College and Southeastern University.
Individually, O’Steen is the sole representative of Oklahoma Christian in the top 25 overall. She is ranked 19th with 246 points and 15.4 points per game.
In the Central region rankings O’Steen is fifth overall in points, and is joined in the top ten free throw rankings by Hamilton. The pair rank sixth and seventh shooting 81.7 and 80.0 percent respectively. Hamilton and McKee placed ninth and 10th in 3-point percentages with 36.7 and 36.4.
The Lady Eagles will have a long break to work on technicals and rest until Jan. 24, when they will face another new Heartland Conference foe–Texas A&M International.