It takes a village to get an all-state bid to western Osage County.
After leading her team to within a game of the school’s first state tournament berth since 1991, Woodland senior guard Ray Lee Conner will play on the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association’s small east All-State team later this year.
Although honored and happy about the individual accolade, Conner would gladly swap it out for at least one more game with the rest of the Lady Cougars.
“I’m really excited about making all-state, but I would have traded spots to make the state tournament to go with my team rather than going on my own,” she said.
In order to earn one of 15 roster spots spread among the almost 150 eastern Oklahoma schools playing in the OSSAA’s three smallest classifications, Conner went through two rounds of tryouts before getting a call with the news. The 2015 most valuable player of the Northern Oklahoma Conference, Conner is the first Lady Cougar to earn all-state basketball honors in more than 20 years.
“My coach and I have talked about doing this for a while and while there was little bit of pressure, it’s a really good feeling,” she said. “This isn’t just for me – it’s also for my team and coaches that pushed me all season long.
“My coaches and teammates deserve a lot of credit, as does my family. If it wasn’t for their support and help, I wouldn’t be here. I had to show up and do it, but I could not have done it without them.”
That support for Conner and her teammates also came from the community. Along with a sea of blue shirts packing the gym at Glenpool High School for the Lady Cougars’ area championship and consolation final last month, some of the team’s biggest supporters are its potential future members.
“Our program has made all of the little kids want to play basketball,” coach Teresa Bledsoe said. “They see these kids have success and it makes them want to play for those big trophies at the season and go to camps and summer leagues. We want to make ourselves better and these girls have set some great examples over the last few years. Just hoping that everyone wants to get in the gym – think we’ll see that, see those kids making that extra effort.”
Some of those pushes and assists also came from outside of Ralston and Fairfax. With five student-athletes named to the 2015 all-conference team – more than any other school — Bledsoe was quick to acknowledge the backing her program has received from other coaches in the area.
“We’ve had a lot of support from other coaches in the area who have talked us up,” she said. “(Barnsdall coach Joe) Gilbert has talked us and our kids up. Even though they beat us to go to state, Steven Castleberry over at Glencoe has really helped us a lot and getting us recognition.”
Also a member of the school’s track team, Conner has accepted a full scholarship to play basketball for Seminole State College and hopes to use that as a springboard for an opportunity with a larger school.
The OGBCA All-State games are scheduled for May 30 at Westmoore High School, with small school game scheduled to tip at 1 p.m.
by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton