If there was one word that would best describe the mindset of the Ponca City Lady Cats basketball team, it would be “disappointment.”
The Lady Cats were on their way to play in the opening round of the Class 6A State Basketball Tournament when they learned that the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association had postponed all Class 2A through 6A state tournaments.
The ruling was made due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, which since has been labelled a pandemic. There was always a degree of hope, slim in recent days, that eventually the tournaments would be played in some fashion.
That glimmer of hope dissipated even more Wednesday when the Oklahoma State Board of Education ruled that Oklahoma schools would be dismissed for the remainder of the school year.
OSSAA did not rule out the possibility of rescheduling the tournaments in its last update, but a new update is expected Thursday.
“It definitely hits hard,” Lady Cat senior Baylee Fincher said Wednesday when asked about the possibility of there not being a state tournament.
“We worked so hard to reach our goal. That was our goal to go to the state tournament and we reached it. But I am so proud that we proved people wrong and ended our season with a win and it was a good win.”
Ponca City defeated No. 3 ranked Booker T. Washington in the finals of the Area Tournament consolation bracket to qualify for the state. Ponca City ended the season with a 21-7 record, but were ranked only No. 15 when they topped Booker T. The Lady Cats were consistently ranked below teams with lesser win-loss records throughout the year.
Another who expressed disappointment was senior Kabria Christian.
“It is understandable why they would cancel the tournament, but it is disappointing for this to happen in our senior year. As a senior, we want to play,” she said. “It is kind of upsetting after us putting in so much work all season long,” senior KaSandra Lyons said.
Another senior, Ryley Beard, chipped in with “It is really crazy I hate the fact we won’t go to the state tournament, especially as a senior.”
Karis Branstetter, another senior, said, “It doesn’t feel real that it is over yet. But looking back we had a great season, so it is not all bad.”
Carlie Badley, a junior starter, said “It is upsetting, but there isn’t much we can do about it. We miss out on an opportunity to play among the best teams in the state.”
Another junior, Trinity Regnier, said “It really stinks. We had a lot of momentum going into the state and were playing well. I don’t want any of us to get sick, but still it stinks.”
Ashlynn Fincher, a sophomore starter, had a little different perspective. She is a sister to Baylee and a daughter of head coach Jody Fincher.
“It is upsetting, especially since my sister is a senior and I won’t have an opportunity to play with her one last time. But we want to go in the future and hopefully this won’t be our last trip to the state,” she said.
If there are no more games to be played, Baylee Fincher will have ended her high school career having scored 1,334 points. A four-year starter, she accomplished that total despite missing six games her sophomore year due to injury. Baylee will be playing next season at West Texas A&M in Canyon. Another senior, Beard, intends to play basketball at Cowley College in Arkansas City, but hasn’t signed a letter of intent at this stage. Lyons has signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan.
Three, Baylee, Beard and Branstetter have memories of suiting up the last time Ponca City was in the state tournament, their freshman season in 2017. Lyons and Christian were part of the team but not in uniform. This year’s underclassmen will have memories of a great season, but apparently there will be no memories of a state tournament game this year.