TULSA — Claremore may be tied with No. 1 Tulsa Memorial with the best basketball record among Class 5A schools at 22-2, but the Zebras have their backs to the wall tonight in the losers' bracket of the 5A Area Tournament.
Two victories are needed for Claremore to earn a berth in the upcoming State Tournament, scheduled March 11-13, in Tulsa. The Zebras' season ends with a defeat.
For eight senior Zebra players the next defeat will also mean the end of their high school basketball careers.
Immediately standing in Claremore's path for an extended season is McAlester (11-12). The two schools will meet 8 p.m. tonight at Tulsa Webster. The winner returns Saturday to face tonight's (6:30) Edison-East Central loser.
Right now the Saturday foe makes no difference for the Zebras. McAlester must be the only subject of thought. At first glance the Buffalos do not appear to offer a serious threat. Their season record is 11-12.
Looks can be deceiving, however. Despite the below .500 season the Pittsburg County club is ranked No. 14 in the final ratings by OKranks.com.
The key question for the faithful Claremore followers is how will they team bounce back from a disappointing 14-point lost to Washington in the regional finals five nights ago?
During the regular schedule the Zebras counterbalanced 3-point outside baskets with a steady flow of inside the paint scoring.