EDMOND — Dandy Peeler admits her tenure at Edmond Memorial got off to a slightly rocky start.
Popular coach Shane Coffey left the program after an 11-year tenure to take an assistant position at the University of Tulsa, and the Bulldogs players — star senior Alie Decker in particular — were very close to Coffey.
“I thought it was going to be tough for us to gain a relationship,” Peeler said.
But as things got more comfortable between Peeler and her players, the team's on-court performance improved, leading to Edmond Memorial's Class 6A runner-up finish. It was the first time the Bulldogs had appeared in a state championship game since 1922.
Peeler, after coaching in the first state tournament of her career, is The Oklahoman's Big All-City Coach of the Year because of the dramatic improvement her team made throughout the season, and particularly in the playoffs.
The Bulldogs' first playoff game was a particularly emotional one for Peeler. Edmond Memorial hosted Choctaw, where Peeler coached three seasons before taking the Memorial job.
Choctaw took a stunning 18-point lead in the first quarter against their former coach.
“We just weren't focused,” Peeler said. “I just got the vibe our girls were really relaxed before that game. ... I never lost confidence that we could come back; we just had to get ourselves together.”
The lesson learned from that game? Mental preparation is a must. The Bulldogs' next game was an area final against No. 2 Midwest City, which had beaten Memorial twice earlier in the season.