Game No. 1, win No. 1

Sealy wins opener, heads to thick of tournament slate

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Following a 66-46 win in its first game, the Sealy girls’ basketball team hit tournament season in full stride, competing in six contests over a three-day span last weekend.

The Lady Tigers got ahead of visiting Hempstead early in the season opener and stayed ahead with the solid, consistent play head coach Anthony Branch will be looking for throughout the 2019-20 season.

“Anytime you get a win and do a lot of good things that we work on in practice and they see it in the game, that always clicks with them like, ‘OK this really does work,’” Branch said after the initial win of the season. “The effort and energy was high, they were excited to come out; we were up 15, then 10 and then only seven but we answered, last year we might not have been able to but we answered and ended with a 20-point lead, that’s a very good athletic team they’re going to be hard to beat.”

That may have ended up as a bit of a foreshadowing moment as Hempstead was on the list of teams Sealy would see in the tournament at Rice Consolidated, on the first day no less.

However, by that point on Thursday, it was already a slightly different Lady Tiger team with the number of injured players outgrowing the healthy ones quickly.

“Montana Hicks’ hamstring wasn’t feeling great so she sat out on Thursday and I brought up Maraya Martinez and although Montana came back Friday, she rolled her ankle and Maraya jammed her thumb but the x-rays came back negative,” Branch added.

With the lone senior Zoee Jeffrey sidelined with a back injury and Kayla Camacho still going through the concussion protocol, the tournament fell heavily on a host of fresh faces.

“Megan Schaaf, Marleeza Williams, Eastlynn Cloud and Julia Jurecka were all fairly new additions to the returners in Evelyn Harrington, Avery Oliver, Heaven Hernandez and Brylie Bond but competed hard against Anderson-Shiro and the La Grange score was a little more deceptive than what it was,” the coach said.

The first day of the tournament brought two losses, to Cuero (34-13) and Hempstead (61-51), before a bounce-back win over Rice, 40-37, started things on Friday. However, Columbus beat Sealy by taking a 48-31 decision before the Lady Tigers fell to Anderson-Shiro, 51-46, and La Grange, 55-37, to close things out.

Still, Branch saw this brand of Sealy basketball coming together to produce a season that he looks forward to watching play out from his sideline perspective.

“They’re developing into a fun group to watch, they play hard for each other, they’re learning and they got tougher over this weekend too,” Branch said Monday morning. “Evelyn grew up this weekend, Avery stepped up and was grabbing rebounds and was being more aggressive in the paint, Marleeza’s a tough defender she’ll get a stop, Brylie’s developing her shot, she blocks out well and seems to always come up with a charge. We’ve got to get Heaven to catch and shoot, she got a good shot and Eastlynn has been huge in the transition game whether she’s handling a full-court press or breaking it, we need to get her scoring some more as well.”

Once all of those things come together, and with the injury bug lessened, Branch hopes to do a little less coaching and a little more supervising, so to speak.

“Sometimes I just need to get out of my own way and let them do what they do,” he said. “All I need to do is use my timeouts wisely to quiet things down and then have them tell me the information; ‘Well why are we getting stopped here, what’s making us turn the ball over here?’ and they’ll say, ‘We’re not boxing out or we need to make better passes,’ and there it is. They know what to do they just need to hear it out loud and talk through it themselves.

“That’s one big thing we do as coaches; we teach the athletes how to be problem solvers,” Branch continued. “So instead, I pose it to them like what do we need to do? We want this to be a player-led program and that freedom will get us there. Of course, we set up everything at practice and we haven’t had a lot of time to work on individual skills, but we’ll probably have about six or seven more hard practices before the holiday break hits after a majority of our tournament season is over.”

The Lady Tigers hosted Ganado this past Tuesday before a rare weekend off will lead into a rivalry matchup against the Bellville Brahmanettes next Tuesday to kick off the Thanksgiving break.

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