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Heard Mentality: Sisters Stailee and Tyla Heard determined to lead Sapulpa (Oklahoma) to more gold

Heard sisters help 5A No. 1 ranked Lady Chieftains into area tournament following regional championship

By Buck Ringgold 

Stailee Heard photo by George Mitchell

SAPULPA - Upon looking at Sapulpa teammates, and sisters, Stailee and Tyla Heard for the first time, they appear to be the same size.

But Stailee has a slight advantage on her sister, in more ways than one. She remarked her official height is 5-foot-11 and three-fourths, whereas Tyla says her height is 5-11 and a half.

“We always talk about that,” Tyla Heard said. “We always talk about that little bit, we always talk about how that little bit, she’s taller than me.”

Stailee Heard is also a senior, whereas Tyla is a junior.

But on the court, together they are a force with their size and scoring ability. The Heard sisters also have another thing they share in common: They’ve helped the Lady Chieftains win a state title, and they’re determined to win another.

Saturday, in Stailee’s final home appearance at the Chieftain Center, she had 12 points as Sapulpa - ranked No. 1 in Class 5A - rolled past defending 5A champion McAlester, 67-37, in the finals of the 5A East Region 1 tournament.

“Having it be the last home game, it’s pretty sad, but I feel like it’s one more step closer to what our big goal is and I feel like we have the team to do it this year,” Stailee said.

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Sapulpa trailed 3-0 early before reeling off 13 straight points, and 27 of the next 30 points, to seize control with a 27-6 lead. The Lady Chieftains went on to a 41-13 halftime advantage while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and holding McAlester to one successful 3-point attempt.

That lead grew to 34 points early in the second half, 52-18, as Sapulpa eventually raised its record to 21-2. That includes first-place finishes at the Tournament of Champions in Fort Smith, Ark., and the Lincoln Christian Tournament in Tulsa, along with wins against 6A powers like Bixby, Booker T. Washington and Broken Arrow.

Sapulpa moves on to play Tulsa Rogers Thursday night in Jenks for the area championship.

“We’ve been really pleased with where we are and we knew coming in, we had a chance to be really special because our freshman class is very athletic and very competitive,” Sapulpa coach Darlean Calip said.

“Especially early in the season, you don’t know how your kids are going to adjust to the environment, but it’s been a smooth transition all year and I probably credit Stailee to that with her leadership. The kids have such respect for her as a person and a player and they want to please her because they know she plays the game the right way and she’s a really good teammate.”

What really impresses Calip about Stailee is her practice habits carry over into ballgames.

“Stailee comes to work every day,” Calip said. “She’s got a tremendous work ethic as a practice player, and what you see in games is what you see in practice. And she holds her teammates accountable in a positive way, that they respect her and respond to, so I’ve just enjoyed watching her grow and lead.”

Tyla is one of those players who has felt those positive vibes radiating from her older sister.

“She has taught me so many things,” Tyla said. “She’s taught me to keep my composure, that it’s OK to play with emotion and be enthusiastic on the floor and to keep my cool.

“But most of all, she’s taught me how to be a leader.”

Sapulpa's Tyla Heard 

Sapulpa's Tyla Heard 

Calip has also liked the progression Tyla Heard has made this season.

“Tyla has so much potential. … She’s strong, she’s physical; she’s probably our best defender because she can guard every position and she rebounds exceptionally well also,” Calip said.

“Then if you add in her scoring; she’s shooting I think 61 percent from the 3-point line and inside (the line), she’s shooting a high percentage, so she’s coming into her own as well and that’s just helping our team also.”

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The Heard sisters have liked how the season has gone so far, even the temporary bumps along the way.

Sapulpa’s first loss was to Lincoln Christian in the Tournament of Champions in Tulsa; though the Lady Chieftains paid back the Lady Bulldogs to win the Lincoln Christian Tournament. The other loss suffered by the Lady Chieftains was to rival Sand Springs.

“Not every season is perfect, we’ve had ups and downs, but we stick together and we made it through the obstacle courses and stuff like that,” Stailee said. “But other than that, this year has been pretty fun.”

The Heards also learned a lot about basketball growing up, as both their parents, Tony and Lila, played at the University of Tulsa. Tony Heard was a member of the Golden Hurricane squad which reached the Elite Eight in 2000 under coach Bill Self, now the longtime coach at Kansas.

“I would say the experience (of understanding basketball) before being here,” Tyla Heard said. “Our parents and our aunts and our uncles and our grandpas, they have so much knowledge of the game, so they just taught us everything that they knew, so that way it was an easier transition whenever we had to step a level up every year.

“It was an easier transition because we had so much knowledge behind us.”

The Heards aren’t the only sister act for the Lady Chieftains.

Their roster also includes senior Raegan McQuarters, a transfer from Tulsa Rogers who led all scorers Saturday with 19 points, and younger sister Riki, a freshman. They are the daughters of R.W. McQuarters, a former football standout at Oklahoma State who also played in the National Football League.

Those two sets of sisters were in the starting lineup for Saturday’s regional win.

“It makes things 10 times easier I think,” Stailee said. “I don’t see it from a coach’s perspective, but for us, (the McQuarters sisters) know what they’re going to do somehow and we know what we’re going to do and the flow of the game is so much easier and they play so much better together and we play really good together, so I think that just helps bring us together a lot.”

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Stailee and Tyla were part of Sapulpa’s 2021 5A title team, as well as junior Taylor Bilby, who was the other starter Saturday. The Lady Chieftains lost in the 5A semifinals last season.

“The key for us is just to be us,” Calip said. “We like our team, we’re very versatile, we have a lot of different options. We can move kids to different positions and capitalize on those things.

“We’ve gotten better, we’ve got multiple kids that can score, we’re not a one-dimensional or a two-dimensional team and I kind of felt like last year, the competition felt like if they shut Stailee down, then they shut our team down. And so this year, that’s not like that, so I feel really good about where we are, and if we can just go and be us, then we have a great shot.”

Stailee Heard will move on to play at the next level, having signed with Oklahoma State. But before that, she wants a second gold ball.

And she wants to savor as much time as she can playing with her younger sister. Stailee isn’t even thinking that her Sapulpa career and playing with Tyla is coming to a close.

“No, not yet,” Stailee said. “But I’m pretty sure once we get to state, it will, just realizing that there’s a couple more games left.”

Whatever the outcome these next two weeks are for Sapulpa, Tyla - likewise - will have to go through the transition of not being teammates with her sister. But she feels she is up for the challenge.

“Yes, it will be very different because I’ll have to step up and take her spot and now I’ll have to be the leader on the team and I’ll have to set boundaries and all that stuff,” Tyla said.

“But I’m excited for next year, too, because I know she’ll come back and see us and give us a speech and stuff, and we have some girls coming up that will also help us, so we’ll still be good next year.”