If you’re a high school basketball team and you reach that number, you’ve turned in a very good season. A trio of Central Texas girls basketball teams still alive in the playoffs have all reached the 30-win plateau, but they’re all seeking at least two more wins, too.
That’s because two more would carry them on to the state tournament.
Midway, La Vega and Rosebud-Lott punched their tickets to their respective regional tournaments with solid victories Tuesday night. Each team has taken its own unique journey to get to this point, but they have the same mission in mind: Remember the Alamodome. Win two more games, and the Pantherettes, Lady Pirates and Lady Cougars will make the journey south to San Antonio for the state tournament next week.
Back around Christmas time, Midway (30-6) realized it still had a lot of work to do if it wanted to seriously contend for a state championship this season. The Pantherettes experienced a shooting slump in the M.T. Rice Tournament that prevented them from repeating as champions in their home event.
“We just started talking as a team that we needed to get back in the gym, get back to the hard work,” Midway coach Teresa Durham said. “Those losses had a big impact. I think it was a wakeup call, and the kids really started to believe that their hard work could pay off. And it did in the second round of district.”
Midway will face Pflugerville (26-8) in the Class 6A Region II semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at Davis Field House in Dallas. If the Pantherettes win, they’d face the winner of Killeen and Spring Dekaney at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Durham said that Pflugerville is something of a mirror image of Midway, with gifted guards to go along with some tough play in the post. The coach believes that one key for the Pantherettes will be limiting the whistles — in Midway’s 68-58 win over Mesquite Horn Tuesday, three of its starters picked up two fouls by the midpoint of the second quarter.
At any rate, the Pantherettes understand the magnitude of what’s at stake.
“When the playoffs first started, we were trying to just fly under the radar,” Durham said. “We knew how many games we had to go, but we were just trying to take it one game at a time. At the start, I would tell them, ‘Seven to go.’ We know what it takes to get to a state championship game. That’s the goal, and that’s the high standard that we’ve set for ourselves.”
It’s a standard that the No. 3-ranked La Vega Lady Pirates know well. La Vega won it all two seasons ago with a perfect 35-0 record, then returned to the state tournament last year only to fall two wins short of a repeat.
Winning is all senior guard Calveion Landrum knows, and the player known as Juicy is trying to squeeze every last drop out of her final season. Nobody in Central Texas has played any better in the postseason than Landrum, who is averaging 28.7 points on 55.6 percent shooting to go with 7.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.7 steals per game.
With Landrum schooling the opposition, La Vega has yet to even be tested in the playoffs. The Lady Pirates defeated Palestine by 28 points, torched Lufkin Hudson by 38 and blazed past Mexia by 30.
And despite Landrum’s singularly brilliant play, it hasn’t been a one-woman effort. Sophomore Ta’Naiya Norwood has filled in nicely in the post following the graduation of Erin DeGrate, while the addition of Odision Miles in the backcourt has allowed Landrum to play off the ball more often and conserve energy.
La Vega (31-2) will draw No. 2 Navasota (28-0) in the Class 4A Region III semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. It’s of course familiar territory for the Lady Pirates. With a win, they’d advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. regional final against the Tatum-Cleveland winner.
Of course, you don’t have to ride the blowout train to the regional tournament. Rosebud-Lott (31-3) has reached that stage by grinding its way to a series of close wins.
The Lady Cougars knocked off a trio of Central Texas opponents — Axtell, Hubbard and Bosqueville — to advance to Friday’s 7:30 p.m. Class 2A Region III semifinal clash against Tenaha at Leon High School in Jewett. None of those wins were double-digit runaways, but rather pressure-packed thrillers.
Rosebud-Lott has handled the pressure with a deft touch. In its 48-44 win over Bosqueville Tuesday, junior point guard Keauna Whitfield drained five of six free throws in the final minute to help ice the win.
“Our biggest thing is that we always play good defense,” said Tucker Donohoe, a former Chilton coach who’s in his first year as Rosebud-Lott’s head coach after serving as an assistant last year. “The offense comes and goes game to game, but if we can keep playing that tough defense we know we’ve got a chance. Most of our wins have come because of hustle plays and a will to win at the end of the game.”
Whitfield, a sensational all-around athlete, carries much of the load for the Lady Cougars, averaging better than 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. She spent much of the 2014-15 season on the bench with an injury, and Donohoe thinks that her absence helped other players develop.
“It forced a bunch of girls to step up, and in a way it helped us learn to play without her,” he said. “Of course, we’re a different team with her.”
If Rosebud-Lott vanquishes Tenaha, it will face the winner between the La Poynor-Evadale semifinal at 2 p.m. Saturday for a state trip.
Coaching clinic comes to Waco for first time
Downtown Waco will be overrun with high school football coaches next month.
Waco is hosting the Baylor-Brazos Nike Coach of the Year Clinic March 17-19 at the Downtown Hilton and the Waco Convention Center. It’s the first time a Nike coaching clinic has come to Waco, and it’s already drawn lots of interest, said clinic director Sally Pippin.
Pippin said that some 200 coaches have registered, and she’s expecting at least 300 more to sign up before the event.
The clinic will feature several college head coaches as guest speakers, including Baylor’s Art Briles, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Nevada’s Brian Polian, UAB’s Bill Clark and Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre. Pippin said that several state championship-winning high school coaches are slated to lead sessions as well.
For more information or to register, call Pippin at (713) 930-8026 or visit www.nikecoyfootball.com. Online registration will end at 5 p.m. March 16.
Waco High runner Gonzalez signs with Texas Wesleyan
Waco High cross country and track standout Melissa Gonzalez will extend her running career by signing with Texas Wesleyan Thursday morning. Gonzalez will be honored with a signing ceremony at 11:30 a.m. at the high school.
Gonzalez has personal records of 5:38.19 in the 1,600 and 12:28.18 in the 3,200, and is a multiple district champion.