Combs brings winning ways to NOC Enid

NOC Enid's Tanara Combs puts up a shot against Seminole State's Hannah Ash Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. 

Billy Hefton | Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Wherever Tanara Combs goes, winning follows.

The Northern Oklahoma College Enid freshman was 93-20 during her four-year career at Fairview, helping lead the Lady Jackets to three straight state tournament trips, including a championship as a junior.

She has played a significant role for the Lady Jets in their 20-2 season so far this season. NOC Enid will take a 7-1 conference record to Murray State (4-5, 8-13) at 5:30 tonight.

"Coming from Fairview, she knows how to compete and how it feels to win,'' said Lady Jets assistant coach McKinsey Schumpert. "She is always bringing something new every day ... she always plays with a lot of energy.''

Combs attributes the winning to good coaches such as Mike Barton at Fairview and Scott Morris at NOC Enid.

"They have had a big impact on my life,'' she said.

Combs, who averaged 14.7 points a game at Fairview as a senior, is coming off a college career-high of 19 points in a 80-51 rout at Arkansas Baptist Thursday.

"I wouldn't say that was my best game, but it was fun,'' Combs said.

Combs seems to always have fun on the court, never lacking for energy. She has been the definition of a swing player being able to shoot threes (24 of 67 for 35.8 percent) as well as taking it to the hole and rebounding (5.4 a game). She is averaging 8.5 points per contest.

"She can almost do it all,'' Schumpert said. "She shoots it well and attacks hard. She had a little bit of trouble finishing at the beginning, but she has gotten a lot better. She's almost fearless at times. Attacking the rim is really one of her strengths.''

Fearless describes Combs well in her competitiveness.

"I definitely, I don't have any fear,'' Combs said. "I don't think I have been intimidated by anyone or anything. It's fun to play good athletes. It makes you better. The more intense it is, the more fun it is.''

She may come from a town, but her game was honed on the AAU courts in big-time atmospheres such as Orlando, Fla., Chicago and Las Vegas.

"It was really fun and a good experience," Combs said. "I got to go against so many different types of players."

Because of that experience, Combs was more than ready for the faster pace of junior college basketball.

"I had to adjust a little, but not too much,'' she said. "The hardest part was the pace of the game and taking smarter shots and making smarter decisions on the court.''

She likes to think she "can do a little of everything.''

"That makes it more difficult for a defense to read me,'' Combs said. "If you're a shooter, they will step out. If they step out on me, I can penetrate around them. That's definitely a plus.''

The Lady Jets are known for their balance, with Combs being one of six players averaging eight points or more. Andi Pierce leads the attack with a 14.8 average, followed by McKenna Pulley (10.9) and Taylor Sylvester (10.3).

"That has made it more difficult for the defense,'' Combs said. "They can't just focus on one player. That opens doors for all of us.''

She brought the enthusiasm she had at Fairview to NOC Enid.

"It like what coach (Morris) says,'" Combs said. "Energy is part of leadership. For a few of them (teammates) it's hard for them to step up (as leaders). I would say my energy brings leadership. I always try to be little bubbly."

She drives herself in practice to keep the intensity that made her an All-Stater at Fairview.

"There are some days that you don't want to practice," she said. "You just have to have a good attitude about it. I want to make it easier on myself so I have a good attitude every day. I'm very hard on myself. I know I can be better. Right now, I would say that where I need to be in two years (after graduating from NOC Enid) is I stand about a 6.57. I definitely can be way better than I am now.''

Her goals are to "just to be smarter with the basketball and knowing what to do and when to do it in certain situations.''

Combs and fellow freshman Euresia Brown have been interchangeable as the starter and the first coming off the bench. Combs' personality suits her well for being the sixth woman.

"It doesn't matter to me if I'm starting or coming off the bench,'' she said. "I come in and play as hard as I can.''

Combs said the team's biggest strengths are its chemistry and character.

"We're so comfortable around each other,'' she said. "It's been fun playing with them. I'm really going to miss the sophomores next year. I definitely can be myself around them.''

Morris said the Lady Jets showed character in how focused they were in a non-conference game Thursday after a six-hour bus trip.

"It was definitely hard going six hours there and then six hours back,'' she said. "We picked it up pretty well.''

Combs is looking forward to the second half of the season. 

"We have seen everybody now,'' she said. "It gives us a better idea of how to react and how to respond when we play them. 20-2 is pretty good, but we need to be unbeaten. ... Murray State is a good team. We will have to come out and adjust like we did last night (against Arkansas Baptist). If we're on our toes and help on defense, we can do it."

NOC Enid Jets

The Jets, 10-8 overall and 3-5 in conference, are riding the momentum of a 92-82 win at Western Oklahoma on Jan. 29. The NOC Enid men are looking to avenge an 81-77 loss to Murray State (9-11 overall, 3-6 in league) on Nov. 30 at the Mabee Center. Dyaire Holt, who leads the Jets with a 17-point average, had 27 points the first game with Sebastian Gray adding 19. Tyler Motley had 25 for Murray State, almost double his 12.2 average.

Both games can be heard on KCRC (1390 AM).

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Campbell is a sports writer for the News & Eagle. He can be reached at bcampbell@enidnews.com.

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