Monday, February 27, 2012

County seniors provided many memories

Another basketball season is coming to a close and with it brings some sadness.

Since this is the third year for the Journal and my third year covering LeFlore County athletes, I have watched many athletes’ last dribble or shot.

During these three years, I have watched them grow in stature, along with skills.

I have watched their wins and losses and shared some joy and some of their disappointment.

I always try to be neutral in my stories and do not try the rah-rah approach. But I always pull for the county kids, at least when they are playing teams from out of the county.

Unfortunately, it will be tough for any county team to win state this year as the six teams left in the playoffs are all in the losers’ bracket. Spiro’s girls came through last year so there is always that chance, but it will be tough.

But they are still winners for being out there.

And the memories are plentiful. I remember Jared Brown of Howe as a sophomore hitting a pair of free throws which helped the Lions upset Red Oak, which came against a defending state champion in the finals of the Eastern Tournament.

Also, I remember Wilson Klutts hitting a shot against a good Heavener team as a sophomore, which pretty much clinched a big win. It was from deep in the corner, like many of his baskets.

I also enjoyed watching Ryan Carter of Cameron grow from a small sophomore to one of the better shooters in the county as a senior. He and his senior buddies such as Austin Standridge, Kenny Whitehead, Dylan Poor and Justin Cox helped the Jackets post one of the best records of county teams over the last two seasons.

The same goes for Grant Severe of Pocola. He was always a good player, but turned his game up several notches as a senior, helping the Indians surprise a ranked Gore team in the districts and playing one of the best games I have ever seen from a county player.

The Wister seniors kept getting better and finished third in the county tournament, along with their success in another round ball. Cody Luman developed into one of the better players in the county as a senior.

I only saw Howe’s girls lose twice over the last three years, both in the LeFlore County Tournament finals before the Lady Lions broke through this year to win the tournament. Those girls helped keep the amazing streak of never losing at home in place for the next group.

I felt a little pain for the Heavener seniors like Sadie Watkins and Jordan Kannady, who were part of dominating teams their first two years before the Lady Wolves struggled this season.

For the Poteau senior girls, it has been a long and difficult ride. After a rough sophomore season, they scored a big upset as juniors over Muldrow in the district tournament and had a tough senior season, until they got hot lately, won district again and are competing in the area tournament.

Nobody would have seen that happening a few weeks ago.

The time has run out for many of our seniors and will shortly for the others. But the memories will remain, long after the uniforms have been turned in for the last time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

County teams gearing up for playoffs

The 2011-12 basketball season is quickly winding down with districts for the smaller schools set for this weekend with the larger schools going at it next weekend.

The seasons seem to fly by and it only seemed like a short time ago that basketball started.

It has once again been a good year for many county teams with several teams having a chance to extend their seasons deep into the playoffs.
Last year, two county teams made it to the state tournament in the Spiro girls and Talihina boys with Talihina winning state.
Another state championship will be difficult as we currently have only one team ranking in the top 10 as the Howe girls are ninth in Class 2A, despite a 23-1 record.

With its record, Howe is obviously our best bet to reach the state tournament. The Lady Lions are in a tough area with second-ranked Oktaha, 14th-ranked Talihina, No. 15 Central and Rattan, the only team to beat Howe this season.

Perennial power Savanna is not ranked, but is also in the region.

Bokoshe’s girls are No. 10 in Class B and could make another run.

Spiro’s girls are not ranked and got a tough draw in the district with a road game at Eufaula, which is 14-4 and ranked 14th. The Lady Bulldogs had a difficult schedule and lost in district play last year before coming back through the losers’ bracket to make state.

For the boys, several teams have the potential to make a run, especially LeFlore and Spiro.

LeFlore is 13th in Class B and with the scoring combo of Dakota Watson and Caleb Smith, along with a good group of players, the Savages could surprise.

Spiro is so explosive and has played a very difficult schedule with games against Poteau, Muldrow, Roland, Stilwell and Oktaha. When the Bulldogs are hot and with their athletes, they could compete with pretty much everybody in Class 3A.

Howe, Pocola and Wister will be tough in 2A while Cameron could challenge in Class A with a solid bunch of starters, which can feature five seniors.

The county 2A teams are a tough draw. Howe has gotten better throughout the year and almost beat Spiro (at Spiro) in the county tournament. Wister has a pair of excellent scorers in Cody Luman and Tyler Gibson, while Pocola is also an explosive team with a 17-4 record.

Like Spiro, Poteau has played a difficult schedule and a tough conference slate. The Pirates are able to compete with anybody as they have played McAlester, Roland, Stilwell and Muldrow tough at home, only to lose late.

The Pirates got a break in the district by avoiding Muldrow and Roland and get to open at home against Hilldale. But Cascia Hall, Muldrow, Roland and Stilwell are all in Poteau’s area and the Pirates will likely have to play Roland on its home court in the district open with a win over Hilldale in the district tournament.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Alliance good for area

It is good to see the area working together under the Fort Smith Regional Alliance to make this area a better place to work and live.

A new manufacturing plant recently announced plans to open in Mulberry. Sure, Mulberry won’t have much effect on the citizens of LeFlore County, but it is still good news.

The Alliance is made up of towns within a 50-mile radius of Fort Smith, including six counties in Arkansas (Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Sebastian and Scott) along with two in Oklahoma (LeFlore and Sequoyah). There are 14 communities taking part—Alma, Altus, Booneville, Charleston, Clarksville, Greenwood, Fort Smith, Mulberry, Ozark, Paris, Poteau, Roland, Sallisaw and Van Buren.

In case you didn’t notice, Fort Smith is not listed first in that group. While it is named the Fort Smith Regional Alliance, this group seems to be working for the area and not primarily Fort Smith, which is a big reason I hope this group succeeds.

In the past, there have been other groups who tried to do the same thing, but the primary emphasis seemed to be on Fort Smith. For the alliance to succeed, it must be for the area, which seems to be the goal of the alliance.

We wish all the jobs and visitors would come to LeFlore County, but that is never going to happen. But if jobs and money come to the area, it is good for everybody. There are a ton of people from our county who work across the state line.
And unemployment in eastern Oklahoma is not that great. There are eight counties in Oklahoma with unemployment above 8.1. Three of those border Arkansas in southeastern Oklahoma in LeFlore, McCurtain and Sequoyah.

At the end of 2011, LeFlore County ranked eighth in the state in unemployment. Our percentage of unemployed was 8.4 percent, up from 7.6 in November, but down from 9.0 at the end of 2010.

LeFlore County has a labor force of 19,477 with 17,846 currently employed. Latimer County led the state at 10.5. Sequoyah was 8.9 and McCurtain was 9.7.
Here is a link to the unemployment statistics.

Aside from our local representatives and senators, nobody in Oklahoma City gives a flip about what happens in southeastern Oklahoma.

I imagine that is also true for our friends and allies across the state line. Western Arkansas and the Fort Smith area is not a big priority with Little Rock, especially not with the growth in northwestern Arkansas.

But with the Alliance working together, this could be the ticket. We have the development of Fort Chaffee and hopefully a lot more in the pipeline.

We will soon have a four-lane highway from Poteau to Sallisaw and I-40. Hopefully one day there will be a four-lane to Fort Smith from at least Poteau.

LeFlore County also has railroad access, an airport, college and the most beautiful area in the state for visitors to hike, camp, fish and hunt.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In case you missed it...

In case you missed it…

The following topics will be addressed in this blog:

Some blather about Groundhog Day;

Poteau’s Alyssa Kramer is hitting it big;

And…district basketball!


Today is Feb. 2, which means it is once again Groundhog Dog. Punxsutawney Phil will poke his head out to see if he can see his shadow, to determine if we are going to have six more weeks of winter.

Six more weeks? We haven’t even had winter. Duh.


Alyssa Kramer, the 14-year-old Poteau girl continues to amaze with her ability to say any word backwards. She appeared on the Today Show yesterday and her YouTube video has been viewed 2,041,448 times as of this morning.

Seriously. I did notice she didn’t say Bob Laval backwards, which is about the limit on my ability to say words backwards.

Her original YouTube video and her appearance on the Today Show can be seen by clicking HERE.


The class A and B basketball directs were announced a couple of weeks ago while the 2A, 3A and 4A will be released today at 4 p.m.

In Class A, our two county class A teams (Arkoma and Cameron) will be in a district at Cameron. Clayton is the third team in the district. Arkoma’s girls and Cameron’s boys have a bye.

The Class B schools have three different districts. Whitesboro is hosting a district (Eagletown and Moyers) in Area IV, while Bokoshe and LeFlore are in Area III.

Whitesboro’s girls and the Moyers boys have a bye in the first round.
Bokoshe will compete in a district at Kinta with Midway the third team. Bokoshe’s girls and Kinta’s boys have a bye.

LeFlore is hosting a district and will face McCurtain.

All the district games are scheduled for Feb. 10 and 11 according to the OSSAA.

It will be interesting to see how the districts for the larger county schools are set. We have five county schools in 2A with the districts set for three teams. Throw in Central Sallisaw and that would be six schools close by. You would think Howe and Talihina would be separated because of the strength of the girls, but you also wouldn’t expect the OSSAA to place Howe, Pocola and Wister in the same district because of the boys’ records.

We could easily see a pretty good team eliminated in the district tournament.

In 3A, Heavener and Spiro are the only schools competing. Also, Hartshorne, Stigler and Wilburton could be placed in a district. Don’t be surprised if Heavener and Spiro are paired together.

Look for Poteau to once again be placed in a district with either Muldrow or Roland. Sallisaw will likely be the other team competing against either Muldrow or Roland.