Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Readers respond...

Well, I apparently struck a few nerves with my blog yesterday about a recap of the LeFlore County Tournament, not that it was my intent.

My goal with the blog was to simply make a few suggestions, not disrespect any county gym, team player, official, fan, etc.

I wrote that I like Spiro’s gym and probably should have stopped there. Instead, I wrote that it was the nicest facility in the county.

This was not written to insult any other gymnasium, of course. The county is blessed with several nice facilities.

Lloyd James of Talihina wrote: I take offense that you said that the Spiro gym is the nicest in the county. Talihina has a nice gym and seats more than Spiro. Apparently Talihina is never considered as a host for the tournament except for its turn in the rotation. There has been several Area and Regional tournaments held here with the largest payback to the OSSAA in the state. All I ask for is a reason as to why Talihina cannot have the semi and finals here.

The tournament host decides where the semifinals and finals are played. Talihina can host the event just like any other school in the county and if it does, I would support it just like I would at any other location.

Another reader wrote: Howe also has a really nice gym, it may not have as much seating as Spiro but it is just as nice.

Howe does have an excellent facility.

I wrote that it would be better to play the tournament at a neutral facility so no team has a home-court advantage.

That brought on the following remark: i must be mistaken but i thought carl albert's gym was located in poteau. Did spiro have their own players ref the games?

Yes, Carl Albert’s gym is in Poteau. However, Poteau plays its home games at its own gym, not at Carl Albert. CASC would be a neutral site. As for officiating, that was not mentioned and I felt like the officials did a great job. Spiro won because the Bulldogs played better Saturday night, not because of favoritism by any official.

The best situation would be if the games were played at a neutral location. Any time a team plays on its home court, they have an advantage. Spiro has done a great job the last two years, and Bokoshe also did a great job as this year's host. I do not want to see anything hurt the tournament and there are always going to be some people who aren't happy if a team gets any advantage.

The LCT just completed its 80th run and I hope the tournament is around for 80 more years.


Unfortunately, not everybody can make the all-tournament team although Dylan, if this is actually Dylan, you have another shot at it next year and I wish you and all the other players the best.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Some final thoughts on the LCT

Looking back over the 80th LeFlore County Tournament, I have a few thoughts and suggestions.

First off, congratulations to the Howe girls and Spiro boys for winning the tournament. Bokoshe also did a great job as a host of this year's tournament.

One thing that really surprised me was the number of empty seats for the Thursday semifinals. I realize that Heavener and Poteau did not have teams competing, but if you are a basketball fan in the county, you missed out.

Next, it’s always easy to second guess, but there were a few players who deserved mention on the all-tournament team who were not chosen.

For the girls, the most obvious one was Chelsea Baggs of Talihina. There might have been some against her selection because she was playing for a different team than she started her high school career with, but I do not feel like an all-tournament team was complete without her.

One other player who had a great tournament and wasn’t selected was Lindsey Mote of LeFlore.

For the boys, there are three players who were left off who deserved to be on the team. The first one is Kendrick Hardaway of Poteau.

I realize three players from Poteau were selected, but I don’t know how we could have an all-tournament team and not have him on it. He was ill on Saturday and did not have his normal stats, but he is as good of a player as there is in the county.

Another player who deserved to be on the team was Cody Luman of Wister. Teammate Tyler Gibson obviously deserved to be on the team and Luman did not have his usual game against Spiro in the semifinals, but is still one of the best players in the county.

Another player who deserved to be on the team was Anthony Milburn of Panama. Also, Heavener finished fourth and did not have a player selected. It would be a tough choice, but I would have selected Luke Culpepper.

I love Spiro’s gym. It is obviously the nicest one in the county. Spiro has done a really good job hosting the semifinals and the finals the past two years.

But, is this fair to other schools having to play Spiro at Spiro? Would Saturday’s game between Poteau and Spiro have been different if it was played on a neutral court? Or, what about when Howe’s boys played at Spiro on Tuesday?

There is no simple solution to this. The best thing that could happen would be if Carl Albert State College enlarged its facility. That would be a great recruiting tool for the college to bring all these players, coaches and fans in.
If we want the games to be played at a neutral facility in the county, that is our only hope. I don’t see the county or Poteau investing $5 million dollars for a new facility when the new Donald Reynolds Community Center could host everything other than basketball.

An enlarged facility would also allow CASC to host the LCT, along with regional and area tournaments, bringing in teams and fans from all over the area.

I am all for CASC adding new buildings for learning, but here’s hoping the administration addresses this issue and considers bringing the LCT back to where it should be.

If nothing can be done with CASC about enlarging its facility, my suggestion would be to hold both semifinals there and do the finals at Spiro.

Another suggestion is to keep all the games neutral. If a school is a subsite, don’t let them host their games at home. Also, some more thought needs to go into where games are scheduled.

For instance, Whitesboro’s boys played Pocola at Spiro in the opening round of the tournament.

That game would have been better to have been played at Heavener. The Talihina and LeFlore boys played at the Heavener sub-site, which was how it should have been. It probably would have been better to have Panama and Howe’s boys play at Spiro and move the Pocola and Whitesboro game to Heavener.

And, the final suggestion is to not seed the teams until after the first of the year. The teams were seeded for the 2012 LCT when several schools had only played one or two games.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Semifinals should be interesting

After two days and nights filled with basketball, the semifinals are set for the 2012 LeFlore County Tournament.

And while some questioned the early seeding, the top four seeds in both divisions advanced to the semifinals, which will be played Thursday and Friday.

Two good runs for county teams ended Tuesday as the reign of the Heavener girls and Talihina boys ended after both teams had captured the prior two LCT championships.

So far, I have watched two-and-a-half games both nights. There have been good games and some that were not all that good.

Action now moves strictly to Bokoshe and Spiro for the final four days with the host Bokoshe closing down its gym after Wednesday.

There really haven’t been many surprises in the tournament so far. Arkoma’s girls, an 11th seed, defeated the sixth-seeded Wister girls, but the Lady Mustangs had already defeated the Lady Wildcats once this year, so that really can’t be considered an upset.

Also, Talihina’s boys (seeded 10th) knocked off seventh-seeded LeFlore, but that was a toss-up as the Tigers are starting to play much better after having to replace all their starters from a year ago.

Spiro’s boys and girls both dodged big bullets Tuesday. The top-seeded Bulldogs trailed most of the game before Devon Perry scored with six seconds left to give Spiro a 50-48 win over Howe.

The second-seeded Spiro girls also needed two free throws by Kanisha Hutchinson in the final seconds to edge Poteau, 45-44.

The semifinals should be interesting. On Thursday, the girls play their semifinals with Howe taking on Bokoshe at 7 p.m. and Spiro and Talihina playing at 8:30 p.m.

Howe will be favored to down Bokoshe, which overcame the loss of one of its best players to reach the semifinals for the second straight year after the 43-39 win over Heavener Tuesday. The two teams played last week at Bokoshe with Howe winning easily.

The second game will be even more interesting as Talihina and Spiro hook up. Both teams are athletic and like to run so there should be plenty of scoring. Talihina must overcome Spiro’s big girls if the Lady Tigers hope to win.

The boys take over action on Friday with Heavener and Poteau playing at 7 p.m. followed by Wister and Spiro hooking up at 8:30 p.m.

Poteau boasts wins over Heavener and Spiro already this season with both wins coming at home. The Pirates’ matchup zone caused problems for both opponents in those games, along with Talihina on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s finals.

The Wolves boast height and good outside shooting, but were blown out in the earlier meeting. The Wister and Spiro game should also be a good one.

Wister boasts a pair of excellent scorers in Cody Luman and Tyler Gibson. The Wildcats will have an edge in height, but Wister will have to handle Spiro’s press and speed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

LCT madness starts today

For many people in LeFlore County, this is the best week of the year.

The annual LeFlore County Tournament starts today and runs through Saturday.

It is also the busiest and the longest. There will be games starting today at 4 p.m. with the finals set to tip off Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

We will once again try to keep you up to date on all the scores on our Facebook page and by our Twitter updates. To keep all the scores posted, we will need your help. If you are at a game, please send texts to (918) 649-4712 and we will post the scores.

With games being played at three different locations, it is almost impossible to keep track of all the games without a lot of help.

At the end of each night, we will have a story on the day’s action, pictures and update the bracket.

That means a lot of late nights and early mornings, but it is worth it.

I posted my picks yesterday for who I think will win each game.

There are some teams the seeded teams need to keep an eye on. For the boys, the unseeded teams which could cause some problems are Cameron, Howe, LeFlore and Pocola.

Cameron lost a pair of games to county opponents Pocola and Howe late in the week, but the Jackets are a well-coached team and have one of the better players in the county in Ryan Carter.

Howe has improved throughout the season. The Lions are back at full strength and in Jared Brown, possess another of the better players in the county.

LeFlore has a scoring machine in Caleb Smith, who along with Dakota Watson and a solid group of starters could be a thorn. The Savages open with defending champion Talihina, which is coming on strong after a slow start, with Poteau lined up to face the winner of the LeFlore/Talihina game on Tuesday.

The one team which could cause the most problems is Pocola. The Indians lost at Talihina last week and were blown out earlier in the year against Wister, but the Indians also have blitzed Heavener badly at home and took both games from Cameron.

Pocola is small, but have some of the better outside shooters in the county with Grant Severe and his teammates.

Probably the best opening-round games feature Howe playing Panama, along with LeFlore taking on Talihina.

For the girls, the unseeded team which could pull off a big upset or scare a seeded team is Arkoma. The Lady Mustangs have downed Bokoshe twice and are 9-3 with several players off the 2011 junior high tournament champions.

Another team which could surprise is Poteau. The Lady Pirates have not won a game, but have played a difficult schedule. Poteau had leads against county foes Spiro and Poteau, but could not hold on.

Poteau opens with Whitesboro, with the winner taking on Spiro. If the Lady Pirates pick up that first win on Monday, don’t be surprised if Poteau causes some problems for Spiro in the quarterfinals.

Fourth-seeded Bokoshe lost one of its better players when Jamie Carberry moved to Duncan. The Lady Tigers should defeat Cameron in the first round and then will likely take on Heavener Tuesday in a rematch from a semifinal game last year.

The best opening-round games should be Panama and Pocola along with Arkoma and Wister.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Predicting the 2012 LCT

Each year, the Journal picks its winners of the LeFlore County Tournament, which starts Monday.

This, of course, opens us up to much ridicule, but that’s okay. We do the same thing every week during the football season and some of my picks there were so bad that none of these can touch it.
Instead of taking the easy way out and choosing the finals, we take the hard road of picking each game (at least in the winners bracket), from the first contest to the crowning of the county champions.

Not meaning to brag, but just a little, last year we picked the winner and second-place team in each division. We will start with the girls, since we are gentlemen around here. Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section at the bottom.



POCOLA (#8) vs. PANAMA (#9)—One of the two best opening-round games (along with Arkoma and Wister) for the girls. Look for a close game with Pocola pulling out the win. POCOLA 41, PANAMA 38.

HEAVENER (#5) vs. LeFLORE (#12)—Heavener is the two-time defending champions. The Lady Wolves are in a rebuilding mode, but should have enough to win this one. HEAVENER 51, LeFLORE 35.

CAMERON (#13) vs. BOKOSHE (#4)—Bokoshe has defeated Cameron twice already so look for the Lady Tigers to pull off the hat trick. BOKOSHE 48, CAMERON 32.

WISTER (#6) vs. ARKOMA (#11)—The worst seeding was giving Arkoma an 11 seed. The Lady Mustangs are 9-3 with two wins over Bokoshe and a 56-53 overtime win at Wister on Jan. 5. Not really an upset, although the seedings would say so. ARKOMA 51, WISTER 49.

POTEAU (#7) vs. WHITESBORO (#10)—An intriguing matchup of the big vs. little. Poteau is looking for its first win after playing a difficult schedule while Whitesboro has posted double-digits in the win column. POTEAU 52, WHITESBORO 41.


HOWE (#1) vs. POCOLA (#8)—Howe shows why it is the top seed as the Lady Lions look to win after finishing second the last two years. HOWE 52, POCOLA 36.

HEAVENER vs. BOKOSHE—Bokoshe is the higher seeded team, but the loss of Jamie Carberry has hurt the Lady Tigers. Should be a good game between a pair of teams which met in the semifinals last year. HEAVENER 36, BOKOSHE 33.

TALIHINA (#3) vs. ARKOMA—Arkoma is going to be a force in the LCT, but Talihina’s experience will be a little too much. TALIHINA 45, ARKOMA 36.

POTEAU vs. SPIRO (#2)—Spiro won the earlier meeting between the two teams at Poteau. The Lady Pirates had a big lead in the second quarter before Spiro rallied. SPIRO 44, POTEAU 39.


HOWE vs. HEAVENER—The two teams which have played in the finals of the last two tournaments meet again. Howe finally gets its revenge. HOWE 52, HEAVENER 38.

TALIHINA vs. SPIRO—The two most athletic teams in the tournament. Spiro has better height and is playing at home. Talihina has won a tournament and finished second in another. TALIHINA 41, SPIRO 40.


HOWE vs. TALIHINA—A really intriguing game. Howe faces former teammate Chelsea Baggs, who was a standout for the Lady Lions two years ago and is now playing at Talihina. HOWE 36, TALIHINA 35.



HOWE (#8) vs. PANAMA (#9)—Teams played a classic at the Panama Festival in late December before Howe won. Lions were a little shorthanded that night but are on a roll. HOWE 58, PANAMA 46.

CAMERON (#5) vs. ARKOMA (#12)—Cameron enters the tournament with losses to Pocola and Howe. Jackets break that streak. CAMERON 57, ARKOMA 42.

BOKOSHE (#13) vs. WISTER (#4)—Wister wins easily. WISTER 50, BOKOSHE 20.

POCOLA (#6) vs. WHITESBORO (#11)—Pocola enters the LCT on a roll. POCOLA 46, WHITESBORO 34.

LeFLORE (#7) vs. TALIHINA (#10)—Two-time defending champion Talihina has righted its ship after struggling early. Should be the best game for the boys on the opening day. LeFLORE 43, TALIHINA 38.


SPIRO (#1) vs. HOWE—Teams played in the Panama Festival. Spiro eventually wore down Howe, which was missing several players that night. Howe could make things difficult for the top seeds. SPIRO 64, HOWE 59.

CAMERON vs. WISTER—Should be another excellent game between the two rivals. Each team has defeated the other on their home court. WISTER 73, CAMERON 71.

HEAVENER (#3) vs. POCOLA—Pocola drubbed Heavener two weeks ago at Pocola. Heavener is struggling recently with blowout losses to Poteau and Henryetta. POCOLA 55, HEAVENER 52.

LeFLORE vs. POTEAU (#2)—Poteau has dominated the only county teams it has faced this year. LeFlore stays close before the Pirates pull away. POTEAU 57, LeFlore 44.


SPIRO vs. WISTER—Wister’s Cody Luman and Tyler Gibson have the height that Spiro is missing. But the Bulldogs’ speed and press will make the difference. SPIRO 69, WISTER 55.

POCOLA vs. POTEAU—Pocola makes up for its lack of height with a deadly three-point shooting and quickness. Poteau has the size and speed to slow down the Indians. POTEAU 61, POCOLA 49.


SPIRO vs. POTEAU—Spiro is the top seed although Poteau won the only meeting this year between the two teams. Poteau’s defense totally frustrated Spiro in that contest, but the finals will be played at Spiro. POTEAU 61, SPIRO 59.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Literacy Council needs your help

Everybody wants to be number one.

LeFlore County is close to the top of a certain statistic, but not one to brag about.

The county is second in Oklahoma, trailing only Texas County, in the number of residents who struggle to read.

According to LeFlore County literacy coordinator Laura Young in a speech to the Poteau Kiwanis Club, the statewide numbers of adults who read below a 12th-grade level is 20 percent.

In our county, it is 30 percent.

For those who read below a ninth-grade level, statewide the percentage is six. LeFlore County’s percentage is 10 percent.

Some 22 percent of those in the 18-24 age group have less than a high-school education. It increased to 25 percent for those over 25 years of age.

And that is why we have the Literacy Council, whose mission is to help county residents to learn to read. People who are considered at Level 1 literacy usually cannot locate an intersection on a street map, find two pieces of information in an article, identify and enter information on a social security card application or calculate totals.

The LCLC offers basic literacy instruction as well as English as a second language class. They also partner with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in providing up to 30 hours a week of instruction to Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).

These classes help prepare residents to earn their GED or enter the work force.

The LCLC uses trained tutors to teach the literacy students. Tutors are given 10 hours of training, split into three sessions.

And they could use our help. The LCLC needs tutors and also help with the costs of materials. The council relies on funding from a grant and the generosity of individuals and groups to help teach our residents basic skills.

Their only fundraiser is the annual spelling bee.

If you can help, either with a donation or would like to help tutor, contact the Literacy Council at (918) 647-3833 or by email to literacypoteau@gmail.com.

Monday, January 9, 2012

LCJHT another success

The crowd was packed for Saturday's finals of the LCJHT
The LeFlore County Tournament was a great idea by whoever decided to start the tournament back in 1932.
The decision to start the LeFlore County Junior High Tournament was also a good one.

Once again the junior high version was played the past week before a packed house for the finals Saturday night at Carl Albert State College.

If the Mick Thompson Field House holds around 1,200 people, there were easily over 1,000 in attendance to watch the Howe and Poteau girls along with Poteau and Wister boys play a pair of finals which were as exciting as anybody could hope to see. Throw in the ones who came earlier and left and it would have been like one of the old LCT finals.

It was an opportunity to see the future varsity standouts playing with as much enthusiasm as we will see on Jan. 21 for the finals of the LCT.

Poteau’s boys and girls won the finals, but Howe’s girls and Wister’s boys were in both contests until the final buzzer.

The crowd got loud, coaches questioned calls and the players celebrated big plays, just like in any varsity game.
There were great plays and some not so great. Play got a little sloppy at times, but that was okay. None of the older kids will play harder than these 12, 13 and 14-year old eighth (and some seventh) graders did.

The most refreshing parts were none of the players in the finals felt the need to question a call, talk trash to an opponent or try to show up a player from the other team.

Those are some traits sometimes forgotten by the older players.

We saw some familiar names like Hardaway and Brown for Poteau’s boys, a Standridge for the girls, a Gibson from Wister and a Hillebrand for Howe. All of them are the little brothers or sisters of players who will have a key impact when the LCT opens a week from today.

And who knows, four years from now we might see these same players and schools competing against each other in another finals played at a location to be determined.

The only complaint I heard was there was not an all-tournament team selected. Some said this was to save money, but it was actually done for the right reason: not to put individuals above the team. Sure, it would be nice to honor the players who deserved this award, but anytime that happens, there are going to be some who felt like they deserved the honor, but weren't selected.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Heavener and Poteau play a classic

Heavener and Poteau hooked up on the basketball court once again Friday night.

The parking lot was packed a full 30 minutes before the tip off. Before the first game tipped off, there was a feeling of excitement in the air.

This was not going to be your ordinary night at the Sherman Floyd Fieldhouse.

The final game of the evening was a thriller, probably the best game I have seen all year. Players were diving for loose balls, playing with an intensity expected in a meeting between two rivals. A big lead by Poteau was wiped out and the gym started rocking as the lead dwindled and the outcome was in doubt.

Must have been the boys, right? Two of the top three seeds in the upcoming LCT pairing off in what could be a preview of the semifinals…nope. That was a sleeper. Since it was Poteau’s homecoming, that game was played first and was a blowout from the red and white.

The excitement on this night came between a Poteau team looking for its first win and a Heavener team trying to regain the glory of winning the last two LCT championships. There were turnovers, missed shots from point blank and the game was sloppy at times.

In the third quarter, it appeared like Poteau was finally going to break through and win a game. The Lady Pirates had a 12-point lead and despite some foul problems, Poteau was in control.

But just when it looked like Heavener was done, the Lady Wolves made a charge. Heavener suddenly didn’t look like a team that was 3-5 entering the game and had gotten blown out two nights before at Hartshorne.

Nine straight points by the girls in purple cut the margin to three points. After Heavener cut the lead to two, Poteau went back ahead by three. Heavener answered with a three by Amber Holt and the margin was only a pair.

After a pair of free throws by Sadie Hawkins, one of only two returning starters for Heavener along with point guard Jordan Kannady, the game was tied. Briley Benson promptly drilled a three from the top of the key with 53 seconds left and again, it looked like Poteau would finally post thate elusive “W” after playing a difficult schedule to start the season.

Watkins answered with a basket for Heavener. Only 38 seconds left now. Poteau 46, Heavener 45. One of those big, massive California earthquakes could have happened with the epicenter at Costner Stadium, and it couldn’t have been felt or heard.

A missed free throw gave Heavener a shot to go ahead. Brenna Vise, who played one of her best games for Poteau, got the steal and Poteau had possession. But the Lady Pirates failed to hang on to the ball and turned the ball back over to Heavener.

The Lady Wolves had the ball on the far end of the court with only 4.5 seconds left. Heavener called a timeout and Holt broke free for Heavener. She took a shot right at the three-point line, but missed. A whistle stopped play as the officials ruled Holt had been fouled on the shot. Only 2.1 seconds were left.

She was originally given three shots, but the officials correctly ruled Holt was inside the three-point line and would get only two free throws.

Holt was only 2-6 on free throws in the game. With every eye in the gym on the Heavener junior and the Poteau side doing everything they could to distract her, Holt calmly took the first shot. Nothing but net. The game was tied and a roar erupted from the visitor’s side like Heavener had just won another county championship.

Now, it was time for the second shot. If it was good, Heavener would probably win a game which the Lady Wolves badly needed. A miss and it would be a four-minute overtime session for a pair of teams both worn out from the frantic pace.

The official handed Holt the ball again. Again, she calmly eyed the basket, somehow blocked out the roar coming from the hundreds of Poteau faithful, let the shot go and watched as the shot was again perfect.

Heavener 47, Poteau 46. Poteau scrambled for a shot, but to no avail. It was over.

But a pair of struggling teams gave those fans who stuck around a game to remember.