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Young Tigers will be pushed to grow up quickly

Taleyah Jones and Kelsey Duffy are returning starters for BA Girls Basketball.

Mike Dooney is looking toward February.

The Broken Arrow Tigers girls head basketball coach is holding out hope that the pandemic does not wipe out the season and his young, inexperienced players will mature through the grind of the Frontier Valley Conference.

“I think we’ll peak in February and we’ll be ready for a playoff run,” Dooney said. “When you have young kids it’s exciting, because you get to see them progress throughout the year. But, it also can be a rollercoaster ride because you know you’re going to win some games you’re not supposed to and you’re going to lose some games you’re not supposed to.

In the meantime, Dooney will rely heavily on returning starters, Taleyah Jones and Kelsey Duffy, the only players back who saw significant minutes a season ago. Jones was the team’s leading scorer at 17.1 a game. Duffy has started since she was a freshman. She averaged 6.1 points last year and led the team with 58 assists.

“Kelsey has the experience and the leadership to lead our young kids,” Dooney said. “She knows exactly what the coaches are wanting from her and knows how to speak our language to the kids.”

Dooney described Jones, just a junior, as a “special, special player.”  Not only was she the team’s best scorer and three-point shooter at 35 percent, she also led the team in rebounds (5.2 per game), steals (2.0) and free throw percentage (80.4 percent).

While Dooney doesn’t foresee his young players matching the output of Duffy and Jones, he believes they have the ability to be competitive this season.

“A lot of our young kids lack the experience, but they are better athletes than what we’ve had since I’ve been in BA,” he said. “They can do some things that other kids can’t do simply because of God-gifted athleticism. That’s going to be fun to coach, and to watch their maturity and development. All year long we’re going see to these kids get better and better.”

He also knows that younger players face more of a challenge in overcoming in-game struggles and being mentally ready to stay focused each minute of each quarter.

“They’re not mature enough to have the mental capacity to handle the adversity when things are not going their way,” Dooney said. “They wear that a lot more than what an older kid would do.

“It’s going to be tough to be consistently good every game, but we’re going to be one of those teams that can play with anybody when our young kids come with the right mindset.”

Those young minds need to be right come game one. The gauntlet starts quickly and on the road for Dooney and his team. Up first is Union on Dec. 8, a top three team in Class 6A. Then it’s on to Sapulpa, last year’s conference champion, who could win the 2020-2021 Class 5A title.