The emotions of Senior Night can always run high. At Byron Nelson, this one last Friday took on a far different meaning for the girls basketball team.
Head coach Darren Wilson said “thank you” to 10 of his players who helped build this program into a consistent playoff contender. Of course, the Lady Bobcats aren’t done wearing the uniform. They have at least two games to play, but want to play more than two.
Byron Nelson (22-7, 9-4 in District 5-4A) played White Settlement Brewer on Tuesday in the regular season finale. As the third seed in 5-4A, the Class 4A Region I bi-district playoff is set with Birdville. The teams are scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Saginaw.
Among Tralyn Woodard, Sydney Smallwood, Madison Edwards, Shaila Wolters and DaKesha Butler, this core helped Byron Nelson collect 20 wins in each of the last three seasons and advance to the postseason. As a program, this group tallied nearly 80 wins.
“We’re a pretty close group program-wise,” Wilson said. “Everybody from the JV to the freshman players were pretty emotional. But our seniors handled it pretty well. I don’t like Senior Night because I know I’m losing them, but there are so many distractions.”
For one, when Wilson went to pick up the congratulatory cake, it wasn’t ready. Then the game with Wichita Falls got a little sideways. The Lady Bobcats struggled through the first three quarters. It took a 24-4 fourth quarter to help them pull away with a 62-36 victory.
Nelson had a senior night in 2013. However, this one had a little more meaning to it.
A glimpse into the future
With Taren Butler out for the season, JV call-up Alexis Smith has emerged as a reliable commodity. She collected eight rebounds in the win over Wichita Falls.
Despite the heavy 2014 losses, Smith and Butler returning gives Nelson a reason to think his 2014-2015 squad can endure the transition.
“My JV was very successful,” Wilson said. “I think what the program shows is that when a player like Alexis can play immediately and contribute (it) shows that we have kids who can play. We might take some lumps early, but I think it’s going to be interesting.”
Keep in mind, Byron Nelson moves up into the new Class 6A in 2014-2015.
Consider it mission accomplished for head coach Rusty Johnson. Throughout the season, he wanted his program to reach the final game of the regular season with something to play for.
The Lady Texans (12-14, 4-9 in District 4-5A) entered Tuesday’s finale against Keller Central needing a win and hoping for Keller Timber Creek to beat Keller Fossil Ridge to force a three-way tie for fourth place. Northwest was tied for fifth, one game back of Fossil Ridge. If that happened, there would be play-in games. If not, the final regular season practices on Saturday and Monday still carried some urgency. Remember, this program won two games in 2012-2013.
“The only personal satisfaction is that there was enthusiasm and the girls believed in themselves,” Johnson said. “They know they are headed in the right direction. The record is not acceptable to me, as well as not securing a playoff spot. But the kids have the right attitude.”
And Northwest got through this season shorthanded. The team lost senior post Brianna Barnhill to a knee injury in the Jan. 28 47-42 loss to Keller Timber Creek. Barnhill should be able to play softball at some point. But the group also lost Shayla Vegas, who moved. Senior guard Brittanie Anderson was also lost to injury.
“We played 10 girls against Richland last Friday and nine are coming back,” Johnson said. “Our JV is 17-4 and our freshman team is 16-3. Plus, you look at the way [freshman guard] Alexus Brigham has played, it’s not reflected by her points, but she’s really matured. We have a lot to look forward to,” Johnson said.