The 2017-2018 season was a special one not only for the seniors, who won their last home game against Stafford but also for Head Coach Anthony Branch.
Branch admitted his time with the seniors was not always smooth but has now turned into something he values deeply.
“When these girls were sophomores, I stepped in as the head coach and we butted heads but that helped me grow as a coach and a communicator so now to be able to see them as seniors, it’s just great,” Branch said.
The team, led by its four seniors, McKayla Black, Kayla Green, Jayme Kana and Kayla Rice, finished the regular season last week beating Stafford 49-44. It was a bounce back victory after losing their previous game against Columbus 37-32 just four days prior. The Lady Tigers finished with a 19-17 record on the season and a 7-3 record within the district.
The win over Stafford put Sealy in the second-place spot in the district behind Columbus who finished with a 8-2 record. The team’s run in the districts was a noticeable improvement from their play in the non-district games in which the Lady Tigers struggled. Senior guard McKayla Black said the moment the team really began to improve was a scheme change implemented by Branch.
“At first, we were playing a softer defense and then we realized we had a lot of speed on our team and when we changed it, we were deadly because once the defense gets going, our offense will be there too,” Black said.
Branch said the decision to move away from what the team was doing is in fact a testament to the character of all the players.
“We were losing a lot of early games that we should’ve been winning and they told me they wanted to try to switch to a man defense and that is a lot of extra work so it tells you a lot about them,” Branch said.
Black along with her other fellow seniors had the opportunity to close out their careers at home with a win over Stafford which they did winning the game 49-44. The game was close throughout the entire ordeal with Stafford coming back from a 13-10 deficit after the first quarter to tie it at 20 at the half. The Lady Tigers’ offense came alive in the second half scoring 13 points in the third quarter and 16 in the fourth to secure the win.
The Lady Tigers pulled out the win largely thanks to senior Jayme Kana’s three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
“We shot a lot of threes in practice and so when she hits a shot like that, it’s crazy,” Black said. “Your last game is always the one you remember and I definitely won’t forget that ever.”
Branch said no matter how far the Lady Tigers go into the upcoming playoffs, this group of seniors will stay in his mind after they depart.
“Seeing how they’ve grown since I’ve started here and the maturation beyond just the wins and losses but how they support each other has meant a lot to me,” Branch said. “That really goes for the team as a whole too because you saw the bond and trust grow as the season went on.”
Sealy will play their first playoff game against El Campo which will tip off at Stafford at 7 p.m. during press time. The Sealy News will update its website and Facebook page on the results from that game.