There is always relief in qualifying for the postseason. For the third consecutive season, Byron Nelson’s girls basketball program has done that.
The Lady Bobcats (21-6, 8-3 in District 5-4A) cinched their spot in last Friday’s 60-42 victory over Lake Dallas. Making the postseason never gets old.
In fact, all of the District 5-4A’s playoff participants are settled. It will be Wichita Falls Rider (10-1), Denton Guyer (9-2), Byron Nelson and Azle (7-4) in the postseason. Azle, which was sitting in fourth place at 7-4, clinched because the fewest losses the fifth-place team has is eight. This week began with three games left in the season.
The last three games of the season began Tuesday at Denton Guyer, followed by Friday’s game against Wichita Falls. The regular season finale is Feb. 4 at White Settlement Brewer. The Lady Bobcats are in a position where they can still contend for the district championship. But the climb is steep. They would have to win out just to give themselves a chance.
Tuesday’s game against Guyer should tell a lot where Nelson is going to be seeded. It dropped the first meeting.
“Guyer was going to be pretty important for us,” coach Darren Wilson said. “You’d rather be second than third because of the way the bracket in Region I is going to set up. And you definitely want to stay out of fourth place.
“We have to start acting like we’re in that playoff mentality now. All three of these games are like playoff games for us.”
It’s probably been the most maddening season in Wilson’s coaching career. While his team is in the postseason, there are games where it won’t score more than 35 points. Then there are nights when it scores 55 to 60.
Matchups will always play a role, but it’s definitely been a roller coaster. Wilson is trying to develop some consistency over the balance of the season.
“We’re still trying to fine-tune,” Wilson said. “Sometimes people are coming out on Sydney [Smallwood] and Shaila [Wolter] and that changes what we want to do from the perimeter. We’ve been doing some things in practice where we want to try and find some better matchups. But the good thing is that our defense has really kept us in every game this year.”
With guard Taren Butler done for the season with a torn ACL, Wilson called up 5-9 freshman guard Jennifer Smith from the junior varsity. Smith saw her first varsity action against Lake Dallas and should see more playing time, Wilson said.
The goal of making the last game relevant for the Lady Texans is alive and well. Northwest (12-12, 4-7 in 4-5A) began the week tied for fourth with Keller Fossil Ridge and played Keller Timber Creek on Tuesday. The squad plays at Richland on Friday. The good news is that Northwest has finished playing Keller and Carroll. Fossil Ridge plays at Carroll Friday.
But keep in mind, Northwest and Fossil Ridge are only one game ahead of Haltom and Keller Timber Creek, which are tied for fifth at 3-8.
Leadership has been coming from senior post Briana Barnhill who knocked down the game-winning free throws in the 37-36 victory over Haltom on Jan. 21. She also had the game-winning free throws in the 64-62 double overtime win over Fossil Ridge.
“You don’t have a player playing three sports in Class 5A if you’re not lacking confidence,” coach Rusty Johnson said. “She doesn’t shy away from the limelight. Her attitude is so good for our program. There’s a carry-over for our other players so they can learn to handle themselves.”