CHOUTEAU, OK —
Don't count out the Chouteau boys.
On Jan. 12, the Wildcats stood at 6-8, having just lost to the Adair boys for the second time this season, a 50-43 setback in the Locust Grove Tournament.
Midway through the season, “6-8” usually sounds the death knell for a team.
Oops! Someone forgot to tell Chouteau.
Since that loss Jan. 12, the Wildcats posted a 13-1 record ― including a 10-game winning streak ― to improve to 19-9 and claim a spot in this weekend's state tournament. And the only team to beat Chouteau during that 14-game stretch, OKC Northeast?
I was standing outside the Adair boys locker room at Fort Gibson High School after their 88-85 overtime loss to Sperry Saturday night when I got a text from fellow sportswriter Kenny Bowyer.
“Chouteau wins!!!” it read.
He was talking about the Wildcats' 62-38 win over the OKC Northeast Vikings in an area consolation final.
Oh, and did I mention, Northeast was ranked first in Class 2A?
These Wildcats are not the same Wildcats that started the season 6-8. In those eight losses, Chouteau lost by a combined 27 points — an average of 3.4 points a loss. In games decided by five points or less, Chouteau was just 2-7.
In their 13-1 tear, they are a perfect 2-0.
Chouteau has won games in the second half of the season by avoiding close games. Of those 13 wins, only five were by fewer than 15 points. The Wildcats' average margin of victory in those games was 13.5 points, including four wins over ranked teams.
It's fitting that Chouteau drew Ketchum in the first round of the state tourney. Chouteau and Ketchum are the last two teams to beat OKC Northeast, though Ketchum just squeaked by with a 52-51 win in the area winners' bracket.
Ketchum is ranked second in the state and has a spotless 26-0 record.
One of my coaches always used to say that it's better to fight an uphill battle than a downhill one. In an uphill battle, you are always in control of your obstacle. You can keep everything in front of you.
Chouteau will definitely be fighting an uphill battle against Ketchum. Fortunately, they have the experience.
They've been fighting an uphill battle all season long.