ARGYLE — As practice was wrapping up Tuesday afternoon at Liberty Christian, girls basketball coach Ken Burroughs had some information for his players.
The Lady Warriors, ranked No. 10 in the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Large Private School state poll, have gotten better as the season has progressed, and their recent results show just that.
He listed recent opponents, and the ones lurking this weekend at the TAPPS 5A state tournament, and their respective rankings.
District foe Dallas Bishop Lynch, the state’s top-ranked team, fell last weekend to Liberty’s Friday state semifinal opponent Houston St. Agnes, the No. 3 team in the poll. Just last week, the Lady Warriors topped Bishop Lynch by nine points on the road. Liberty (24-14) topped No. 6 San Antonio Antonian on Saturday in College Station to advance to the state tournament, where they will play St. Agnes and then either No. 4 John Paul II or No. 16 Plano Prestonwood in the state final on Saturday.
Many coaches might not discuss such arbitrary things as state polls this late in the playoffs, but Burroughs doesn’t shy away from it.
“Sometimes you tell them as a motivational thing and sometimes it’s just reality,” Burroughs said.
“I don’t want us just to get there [to the state tournament] and say we started four freshmen and got to the state tournament. We’re one of the four teams that have a chance, and it might not be the best team in the state [that wins], but it’s going to be the best one that weekend.”
The fact the Lady Warriors are playing this weekend could be considered a surprise. After all, all five starters are newcomers to the program this year, including four freshmen and senior post RayVon Christian, who moved in from Hebron, where she was a team captain.
It is that group that is tasked with getting the Lady Warriors back on track after a first-round playoff exit last season with a senior-laden team led by two Division I signees. Before last season’s disappointing finish, the Lady Warriors had played in six straight state championship games, including five straight under Burroughs.
Aside from Christian, the four other starters for Liberty are freshmen, including two who have been tied to the program for years as the younger sisters of former standout Whitney Hand, who went on to play at Oklahoma and was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Rebekah Hand is Liberty’s leading scorer and is joined by sister Hannah, Sydney Goodson and Kendall Ellig, who moved in from Flower Mound Marcus prior to the season, in the starting lineup.
“We were all in eighth grade [except for Christian], and it’s crazy to think that we came from eighth grade to go to here,” Rebekah Hand said. “The next three years will be great because we all work together so well. It’d be so cool if we won state this year.”
Due to the youth, inexperience and unfamiliar nature of the team early in the season, the Lady Warriors struggled, taking some beatings from teams like Mansfield Timberview, Argyle and Krum.
But the team has progressively jelled and gotten better on a weekly, even daily, basis.
“I feel like we leap a step every single day,” Goodson said. “As a team, we continue to get better. That’s the difference between us and the other teams.
“In the first round of district, we didn’t win a lot, but then in the second round we got better and better.”
Added Burroughs: “As we started getting healthier and working together, we continued to get better. I think that’s been the biggest difference. Some teams peak and then plateau early, but we’re playing our best basketball right now and that’s encouraging.”
And that goes back to that discussion after Tuesday’s practice about what’s left on the Lady Warriors’ table and what’s in their rearview mirror.
Burroughs said he had no reservations talking about rankings and what’s on tap with his young team because, well, they don’t conduct themselves as a young team.
“You never really know when you have young kids that are new to the varsity level, but they were ready for it,” Burroughs said. “That was the great part about it … they were ready. You don’t always get freshmen who are ready to play at this level.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .