MOORE — Southmoore coach Britney Kannady-Sayes spent nearly five weeks trying every method she could think of to help motivate her team.
Dealing with the loss of star junior forward Serithia Hawkins to an elbow injury, the SaberCats were in a freefall, falling from No. 3 in Class 6A to No. 17 while losing 9 of 11 games.
So, Kannady-Sayes cried with her team.
She encouraged them and tried motivational quotes.
One day she even questioned their desire in practice before leaving them alone for a week to sort it out on their own.
The answer, though, may be Hawkins’ return to the lineup, which happened on Feb. 11. Southmoore is just 1-3 since her return, but there’s more optimism the SaberCats can regain their early season form in the playoffs that start Thursday against Norman at Edmond Santa Fe.
“I think we’re in the best place we’ve been since before we lost Serithia by far,” Kannady-Sayes said. “Are we back to where we were before? I can probably answer that better for you after Thursday’s game.
“As far as mentally, I think we’re back where we were. It’s just hopefully we can get through this week and have another week of practice with her and hopefully get back to where we were in the beginning.”
Hawkins’ first game with extended minutes since hyperextending and chipping her elbow came Friday in a 69-64 loss to No. 4 Midwest City. She dropped 30 points on the Bombers, displaying the scoring ability the SaberCats missed and will need moving forward.
“We just have to practice more,” Hawkins said. “I don’t really worry about the points I have, I just wanted to win the ballgame and make a difference to stop the losing streak.
“It’s a very new beginning. We can start over, get back together and set our mind right.
The mindset of the SaberCats seems to be the concern of the coaching staff.
For that period, nothing really went right. On top of Hawkins’ injury, senior guard Cydni Campbell missed a week with a thumb injury, and players dealt with various illnesses.
Frustrations certainly mounted during that period, too.
“I thought most teams have a hard time coming back, but they still kind of get there, and I think we just didn’t handle it as well as we should have,” Campbell said. “I expected more out of all of us, but we didn’t handle it as well as most teams should.”
Hawkins, who has offers from Houston, Tulsa and Wichita State, only makes the SaberCats even more dangerous in the postseason.
With her, they started the season 8-0, beating six ranked teams during that span and winning the Bixby Tournament.
They haven’t won two straight games since Hawkins’ injury.
Southmoore, however, will need to find a way to put together a winning streak at some point in the postseason.
“It was a horrible five weeks and I’m glad it’s over,” Kannady-Sayes said. “I think we’re finally getting to a point where we can say we’re 0-0 and those rankings everybody’s talking about and where we’re at in the playoffs doesn’t matter anymore.”