Having just moved to Arlington from Arkansas, Dierra Ely might have felt like a stranger when she first set foot on the Lamar campus at the start of her freshman year.
But three years later, the senior is feeling right at home on the Lady Vikings girls basketball team.
Ely describes her teammates as being like sisters. And that Lamar family, led by Ely and fellow senior Desirae Hampton, found a way to edge El Paso Franklin in the area round of the 5A playoffs last Friday in Lamesa. The 44-43 victory, in which Ely scored 14 points, sent the Lady Vikings to the regional quarterfinals, where they were set to face district rival Martin.
The game was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Arlington High, after the press deadline; see dfwvarsity.com for the result.
“All of us are sisters,” Ely said. “Ever since I moved here, everyone was nice to me. You have nothing to worry about. Just be yourself.”
What Ely is when she’s being herself is a competitor. She is averaging 12.5 points through two playoff games and is determined to keep Lamar’s playoff run and her final season of high school basketball going strong. Lamar, which finished third in District 3-5A, is back in the postseason after missing it last year.
“We’re motivated by the thought of us going home for one thing,” Ely said. “We don’t want to go home. And then once our defense gets going, we start getting better on offense.”
Defense helped the Lady Vikings overcome a sluggish start in their bi-district victory against Keller. Lamar was outscored 7-1 in the first quarter but ended up winning the game by 15 points.
The Keller game was the first-ever playoff game for junior Nia Flye. She admits she was a bit nervous in the early going.
But the Lady Vikings’ defense and fast tempo proved too much for the playoff-opening opponent to handle. “We ran, which is what we do a lot in practice,” Flye said. “We played a fast basketball game. That’s the plan throughout until we make it to the last game and win it at all. That’s our style of basketball.”
Flye, who said she emulates the hard work and poise of the team’s senior leaders, feels like a difficult district slate that forced Lamar to play juggernaut Bowie and always-tough Martin twice prepared the Lady Vikings for the caliber of playoff competition.
“We’ve played against tougher teams, so we know how to get tougher right back,” Flye said.
The going got tough in the area-round game against El Paso Franklin. The Lady Vikings trailed 30-29 entering the fourth quarter. But Lamar outscored Franklin 15-13 down the stretch to come out with a one-point victory.
Hampton, who led the team in scoring during the regular season at 13 points per game, led all scorers with 15 points in that game.
“Over the past few games, we’ve been able to pull together and work as a team with everyone contributing, so that helps a lot,” Hampton said.
Coach Erinn Levels said her team continues to work hard in practice. Lamar has improved its free-throw shooting and now has a goal of making 70 percent or more of their foul shots each game.
“It’s the best part of the year, our favorite part of the year,” Levels said. “It’s ‘win or go home.’ ”
Even though Ely feels at home at Lamar, she isn’t ready to go home from the playoffs.
“It’s exciting,” Ely said. “We all talked about how we don’t want to go home, how we loved each other too much to let the season end yet.”