When the brackets were released for the recent Jenks/Union Invitational girls basketball tournament, top-ranked Edmond North was looking at potentially tough showdowns with undefeated Sand Springs and top five-ranked Tulsa Union.
Those matchups came to be, but the Huskies steamrolled through the tournament anyway, thanks to great team defense and balanced scoring.
“The competition is always fierce,” said Edmond North head coach Pete Papahronis on the Jenks/Union Invitational. “We like to play some east-side teams. They have tough games every year. That’s why we like to go there.”
The Huskies, who return eight of their top nine players from a year ago, allowed only 84 points in the three games. They beat Sand Springs in the semifinals by 24 points and Union in the finals by 17.
“We emphasize defense every day in practice,” claimed Papahronis. “We are a defensive-minded coaching staff. You need scorers and you’ve got to put the ball in the hole, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of our points come off transition from our defense.”
In the title game, the Huskies were masterful at limiting Union to just one shot per possession.
“What’s the point in playing great defense,” said Papahronis, “if you’re going to give them a second or third attempt? That’s what really sticks the dagger in ya; when you play good defense for 20 seconds and you make them take a shot that’s not a high-percentage shot and then they get the rebound and the putback. That just deflates you. We really stress getting the board and getting out in transition.”
“We need her 100 percent for the playoffs, so she’s just taking a few days off and resting and getting it properly healed,” stated Papahronis.
Despite playing without Papahronis, Edmond North still had plenty of scoring options. Senior Laci Steele scored 17 points in the title game and was named Tournament MVP. Senior Toni Papahronis earned All-Tournament honors and starters Ryan Franklin, Allison Heathcock and Ataya Casaus each contributed heavily.
“Fortunately for us we’ve got depth and a lot of good players,” said Papahronis. “The way the other girls played you wouldn’t even know that we missed her.”
With postseason play just a month away, the Huskies are one of the favorites to win the 6A state title. They were knocked out in the semifinals last year and they’re hungry to go all the way this season.
“We don’t take a day off,” admitted Papahronis. “We don’t coast through practice because we remember that pain and not getting the chance to play for the gold ball. We know that can happen no matter how good you are or what your record is. We’ve got that in our mind.”
“Every day we come to work,” Papahronis added. “We’ve won all three of the tournaments we’ve been in this year. We’re leading the conference right now and we’re ranked number one in the state. None of that matters because the job is not done. We haven’t done anything yet. I think losing to Bixby last year, it helped us get that mindset. I think that mindset is going to help us in the playoffs.”