The East Central High School girls basketball team was very disappointed when they lost 49-45 to McAlester in the 2010 5A State Championship game. The same goes for 2011 with a 44-36 loss to Bishop McGuinness for the 5A state title. And that's not to be confused with the 45-41 losing effort to Shawnee for the 5A crown in 2012.
The Lady Cardinals have lost in the state championship game in each of the last three seasons.
"There's no reason we shouldn't have won [a championship,]" said East Central head coach Sammy Mack. "In each one of those games, we were right there to win."
Mack jokingly referred to the last three years as being the Buffalo Bills of Oklahoma girls basketball.. The Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls, dating from the end of the 1989 season through 1992. In January of 1993, none of the current Lady Cardinals were even born yet.
However, what these three seniors (Bria Pitts, Ariel Williams, and Darreion Clark) do understand is the pain of coming up just short of winning a state championship three consecutive times. And they know is their last chance.
"Every year we feel like we're going to win it," Clark explained. "But this year, there's no excuses. We just need to keep working hard and do what we have to do to get it done."
As for fellow senior Bria Pitts, she's considered the most talented of the class and also is signed to play at the University of Arkansas next season. But she's also missed their first and third state finals with an injury. And by tearing her ACL a couple weeks ago against Bartlesville, Pitts won't be there if the Lady Cardinals reach the championship game.
It's kind of frustrating because I kind of want to get it for [Pitts] as much as I want to get it for me too," said fellow senior guard Ariel Williams. "Because I know it's hurting her inside and she would want me to get for her. So that's kind of what we plan for."
Regardless of the outcome, coach Mack puts it into perspective. "These [seniors] have an opportunity to be in four state championship games. And it's pretty special to them," Mack explained." And all the girls know, 'hey, let's go! Let's get it done!'"
In order to do that, 4-seed East Central (18-11) will have to beat 11-seed Dell City (13-13) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinal round at Catoosa High School.