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By Glen Miller
Before the first ball was tossed up on the 2012-13 basketball season, Renie Whittern knew it was going to take time for his young El Reno High School girls team to mesh into a Class 5A playoff contender.
Through the first five games of the season, Whittern feels the team in on track.
“The three girls that are doing all of our scoring right now did not see a lick of varsity playing time last year. So we are young and we are still learning.
“We’re still adjusting and figuring out what we want to do,” said Whittern.
El Reno, ranked No.14 in the latest Class 5A poll, was slated to end its holiday break Friday night with a Suburban Conference road game to Western Heights. The Indians posted a 2-3 overall record during the 2012 part of its schedule, while going 1-2 in league games.
“I’m proud of where we have come in five games. I told the girls I think we are the most dangerous 2-3 team in Class 5A. I think that is something we can hold our heads high about,” said Whittern.
El Reno is the highest two-win team ranked in the top 20, tied with Bishop McGuinness, which is 2-4 on the year. The Indians are one spot ahead of Guthrie, which defeated EHS, and three spots in front of Noble – which Whittern’s team demolished by 27 points.
El Reno has played tough in its three losses, losing by an average of 10.6 points, with two of those setbacks being single digit defeats. The Indians led No.3 Deer Creek into the fourth period before losing by seven to the Antlers.
In the two wins, El Reno has struggled with turnovers but still managed to outscore opponents by a combined 67 points for a 33.5 average winning margin. The Indians have 84 total turnovers, five more than opponents.
El Reno has increased its overall offensive output numbers to more than 50 points per game for the first time in four seasons. The Indians average 52.2 points per game, while allowing 45.2 points per game on defense.
Whittern’s team has outscored its opponents 261-226 through five games on 89-of-257 shooting (34.6 percent). Among those numbers has been a 24-of-84 effort from behind the 3-point arc for 28.6 percent.
“If you look at all five games, it’s been two sophomores and a freshman in the top three scorers every night,” said Whittern.
Sophomore Sheridan Gray leads the team in scoring with 85 points off 26-of-59 shooting. She made 13-of-29 from the 3-point arc and 20-of-28 from the free-throw line en route to her 17 points per game average.
Classmate Regan Owen, who played the Deer Creek game with a shoulder injury, has 43 points through five games for an 8.6 average. She’s made 16-of-42 shots and 11-of-19 free throw attempts.
Freshman Taleigh Davis is close behind with 40 points off 13-of-45 shooting for an 8.0 points per game average. All three players are shooting over 28.8 percent from the floor, with Gray hitting at 44.1 percent and Owen at 38.1.
Senior Miranda Marquez is currently fourth in scoring with 23 points (4.6 ppg), with classmates Allora Bellymule at 15 (3.0 ppg) and Jentri Thompson posting 13 (2.6 ppg).
Owen leads the team in rebounds with 30, 6.0 per game, followed by Thompson’s 24 boards and 17 from Bellymule. Gray has collected 14 caroms, while Davis and Alaney Karty have 11 rebounds each.
A sore spot which needs work in the second half of the season is El Reno’s free throw shooting, which has slumped from over 80 percent to 59 percent at the break.
Gray (71.4) and Davis (72.7) are the only players shooting over 60 percent with those attempting 10 or more free throws. Owen and Thompson are hitting in the 50 percent range.
El Reno’s defense has held opponents to 31.9 percent shooting, while logging 53 steals and eight blocked shots. Sierra Bellymule leads in steals with 11, followed by Gray and Marquez with nine each and seven apiece from Davis and Thompson. Karty and Allora Bellymule have two blocks each.