By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
The Lady Tigers played their way back into the District 16-4A race Tuesday, playing their best basketball of the season in the second half of a 39-35 victory over Jacksonville.
The Tiger boys, who lost by 23 points to No. 12 Jacksonville, can be encouraged even in defeat.
The Lady Tigers showed that you can grow up as a basketball team even after an 0-3 start in district as they moved into a fourth-place tie in 16-4A with a single huge win. The boys, who dropped to 0-2 in district Tuesday, should follow their lead.
Art Prevost’s Lady Tigers turned a disappointing and disjointed second half of Friday’s 56-40 loss at Whitehouse into a positive. The girls were outscored by the Lady Wildcats 45-20 from the midway point of the second quarter to the final horn, as their confidence sagged and their search to play together hit bottom.
Offensively, they looked lost. Defensively, they didn’t defend the paint. At all. As a team, they didn’t play together.
Fast forward to the boys against Jacksonville. Coach Don Newton came up with a game plan to break Jacksonville’s torturous full-court zone press, and his players didn’t follow it. Instead there were what Newton defined as “selfish plays” that led to turnovers and fouls. A 10-2 first-quarter lead quickly resulted in a 50-27 loss.
Newton did the only thing he could do — sit out the players who weren’t buying into the team philosophy, whether it was his leading scorer or his 11th man. The team concept is the only way you can win in any sport, but maybe more so in basketball.
ESPN SportsCenter’s nightly “Top 10 plays” lulls us into thinking that basketball games are won and lost by great individual plays. Lebron James dominates the highlights with acrobatic dunks. But sit back the next time the Miami Heat are on TV and watch how no player in the NBA lives and breathes the team concept more than Lebron.
Playing as five players. Starters or bench players. It’s a philosophy Prevost and Newton refuse to compromise on with their players.
Prevost had four days to get his team ready for Jacksonville. He called the Whitehouse loss “a wakeup call for coaching.” He said he stuck too long to his man-to-man defense when Whitehouse’s best player, Ashton Ates, scored 11 points in the second half to put the game away.
“We were up nine points (against Whitehouse),” Prevost said. “They were getting ready to crumble. If I go to a zone, it stops (Ates) from getting her 16 points.
“Here against Jacksonville we went to the zone defense and it slowed the game down.”
Prevost still needed his players to buy into playing a zone against Jacksonville, gearing the defense to stop Chancii Scott. She still scored 19 points, but could have been even more of a factor.
The Lady Tigers also had to stick to the plan of slowing the game down. Corsicana’s guards like to run. So Wilson and Shamara Taylor, two of the quickest players in 16-4A, had to pick their spots.
“Last night we bonded as a team,” Prevost said. “We bought into the game plan and that was to take the air out of the ball and control the pace. It was a great team effort. I loved how hard we fought.”
Newton found himself at the other extreme Tuesday night. After a great first quarter, his team struggled to get the ball across halfcourt. The result — the Tigers weren’t explosive on offense, especially behind the 3-point arc.
Newton takes his losses as hard as any coach I know. He saw Tuesday night as opportunity with the best crowd of the season in Tiger Gym, people who had been reading about an 18-5 start but hadn’t been there to see it.
The Tigers shut out the state’s only Class 4A unbeaten. It took Jacksonville 7 minutes, 15 seconds to score its first hoop.
Then the Tigers couldn’t break the Indians’ press, turned it over 31 times and a 10-point lead turned into a 23-point loss.
“Same old Tigers,” is what Newton said the fans probably left the gym thinking after 50-27.
His players can change that. They can work and prepare as hard as ever for Friday night against John Tyler.
They can grow up in a few days, just like the girls did. But they have to buy into what their coach is telling them.
“Winning helps build confidence,” Prevost said. “After last night, we’re one of the teams riding the elevator up. Our best basketball is ahead of us.”