Comeback Cats Thrive Under Pressure

Thursday, July 28th 2011, 5:33 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Feb 12, 2010 5:34 PM CDT

Bobby Lewis
Oklahoma Sports Reporter

BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma – The casual basketball fan would have understood if the dozen or so players wearing black and gold decided to quit Tuesday night after trailing Jenks on the road 17-0 to start the game. For many outside the bench, rolling over and submitting to defeat would have been perfectly acceptable.

However, the Broken Arrow Tigers did not. They decided to fight back.

6A’s second-ranked school battled back from a 20-point early second quarter deficit to take down the Trojans in double overtime. Senior sharp-shooter Jake Toupal scored a team-high 24 points, including all 10 for his time in the second extra period.

“He played really well, and he did that with four fouls,” said Broken Arrow head coach Rusty Stecker. “We thought it was going to be tough, but we thought we could win.”

“It wasn’t just me scoring. It was the whole team effort,” Toupal said before practice on Tuesday afternoon. “We knew we could come back. We knew we could win it. Coach (Stecker) kept our spirits up telling us that we could still do it.”

Stecker admitted that his team was under less pressure than Jenks in the game’s final minutes, and that was a key factor in calming his players down.

“When you spend that much time getting back into the game, you don’t want to give it up,” he said.

Stecker, Toupal and the rest of the Tigers didn’t panic under pressure. They had been in this situation before. Back in December the Tigers trailed Putnam City West by ten early in the game, and found a way to claw their way back to win, 74-70. At the time, PCW was undefeated, and the No. 2 ranked team in class 6A. Come-from-behind wins like the ones against the Pirates and Trojans, should help Broken Arrow when the postseason arrives later this month.

“If we get down to another team, we’ll look back and be confident that we can come back from anything,” said Toupal. “Coming back from 17-0, being down 20, it’ll be a confidence booster.”

Broken Arrow is off to a 17-1 start. Their only loss came to Muskogee in the final round of the Muskogee Shrine Tournament in early January. Earlier in the season, the Tigers took down the then-No. 1 ranked Roughers on the road 67-52. They beat Muskogee again last week by nine. The Tigers are 11-1 this season against teams ranked in the top 20.

“I think the players are showing a lot of character as well, and the desire to win,” said Stecker. “Players have to step up and make plays. I think we’ve gained a lot of experience.”

Confidence could prove to be a difference maker for B-A this season. Last February’s tough schedule proved to be too much for a younger Tigers team, but the players and coaches expect a more enjoyable finish to this season.

“A ring on our finger,” smiled Toupal. “We can go all the way.”