YALE, Okla. — Hardwood pressure comes in many forms and sometimes long before an opponent ever walks onto the court. In the town of Yale Coach Rocky Kennedy applies pressure all the time to teach the triangle offense. Those who don’t master it quickly enough run the stairs three times.
History bears down on this squad too. The 2 time state champion boys team from 12 seasons back stares down onto the court from the north end of the Homer Ray Gymnasium. The greatest athlete of the last century, Jim Thorpe, grew up next to the gym parking lot. Coach Kennedy says, “The group of seniors were freshmen when I got here. They’re a good group.” “The playoffs are coming up in the near future and we’re hoping to make a pretty good run.”
But the Bulldogs have a secret weapon this winter, actually 4 of them. Dryden Winterbottom and his little brother Jake. Carson Fowler and his little brother Connor. All of them play on the varsity. The Winterbottoms and the Fowlers are also first cousins. “How long have you guys been playing together?” asks a reporter. “Long time says one. Since 3rd grade at least says another.” “It’s awesome,” says Dryden. “Playing together is what we’ve been thinking about since we were little,” says Connor.
They grew up with competitive games in the driveway with no referees and no fouls. They played little league and church league, AAU on weekends. They still remember the time a girls’ team beat them in grade school. “But that was a long time ago,” chuckles Dryden.
The Bulldogs have been pretty good this year. Only 4 losses against 17 wins in early February. Their mothers are sisters. Toni Winterbottom and Cris Collier often sit next to eachother, and to their mother, and grandmother too.
The family of Yale basketball hopes for a long playoff run, hardwood pressure notwithstanding. The ‘family’ part these four have had down pat all their lives.