In their first series of games after taking nine days off for Christmas, the Sealy Lady Tigers basketball team competed in the Weimar Christmas Classic Tournament to resume their season. The team lost three and won three with two of the losses coming by a margin of six points or less.
The tournament began for the Lady Tigers in a 44-21 loss to Navasota, an opponent head coach Anthony Branch said was one of the toughest the team will face the entire season.
“McKayla Black is probably our best offensive player and they had what their coach said is the best on-the-ball defender he’s ever had on her and we just couldn’t make the shots we should to win games,” Branch said. “I really believe we won’t play any team as good as them defensively.”
It looked as though the loss would start a trend for the Lady Tigers in the tournament as they entered halftime of their next game against La Grange down 24-11. The team came back strong in the second half with a 23 point third quarter and a 15 point fourth to pull out the close 49-46 win.
“We did a really good job on the defensive front especially when pressing them and that led to a lot of steals and transition scoring,” Branch said. “I think it really showed our mental fortitude to not just bounce back from a loss but to come back from being down at half as well.”
The Lady Tigers would play four more games in the tournament with a three point double overtime loss against Anderson-Shiro, in which Branch said helped him realize some defensive adjustments the team has to make, a six point loss against Victoria West but two double digit wins versus Fulshear and Weimar as well. The team’s overall record post-tournament is 11-13.
With the team headed into district play, Branch said the team’s identity is beginning to come together successfully, particularly the development of senior guard McKayla Black.
“You saw it in the game against Victoria with McKayla where the light bulb really came on and now she see’s the floor and how she’s supposed to execute as a floor leader and it’s really helped communication,” Branch said. “She’s fixed some foul trouble she’s had in the past so it’s helping her offensively and you can see her evolving in the rhythm of the three point game and going, ‘okay coach I got this.’”
Branch also pointed towards sophomore Zoee Jeffrey for her contributions on the boards and senior Kayla Rice expanding her scoring capabilities as other performers that are greatly benefitting the team.
Moving forward, Branch said one of the biggest changes the team will be undergoing the next few weeks is a defensive scheme adjustment to better fit the team’s skillset.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but we’ve always had this missing element that I feel like we have now and it’s important as a coach to change the game plan to fit your team’s skillset,” Branch said. “It’s always fun to try something different and especially something that will better fit us as a team.”
The Lady Tigers will play El Campo in their final non-district game at press time on Jan. 2 and will play their first district opponent Royal on Friday on the road with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.