After slow start under new coach, Mansfield picking up steam

01/13/2014 11:39 AM

01/13/2014 11:40 AM

For most districts in the state, including 7-5A, this past Friday marked the midway point of the girls basketball district campaign. Looking at the results on paper, one might not be impressed with Mansfield’s 3-18 record. But what’s important for the Lady Tigers is that two of those wins have come in the last three games, with the lone loss coming against Duncanville – arguably the best team in Texas. That gives Mansfield a 2-5 district record and keeps hopes alive for a playoff berth.

The Lady Tigers might be forgiven for starting slow. The team endured a coaching change in mid-summer, when Kate Goldberg replaced Natasha Stewart. Mansfield also sports a wealth of youth on the roster, including a pair of starting freshmen.

“It was a whirlwind,” Goldberg admitted. “You’re not only trying to get straight your staff and get them to understand your philosophies and your coaching style, you’re trying to get those kids to buy in – all within a 30-day period. It was a pretty short transition and we’re still working on it.”

Mansfield opened the season with 15 straight losses before tasting its first victory, a triumph over Arlington Lamar, and has since bookended the Duncanville loss with district wins over Midlothian and Grand Prairie. It’s exactly the kind of growth that Goldberg was hoping to see.

“They’re figuring it out,” she said. “They are understanding that if they do the things we ask, they’ll be successful. If we put four quarters together, are fundamentally sound and everyone does their job, we can win games.

“And that’s the fun part is that they see it,” she continued. “We played DeSoto within four points. We were tied with Cedar Hill after three quarters. There is a chance that we can – if they do everything asked of them – can possibly squeeze and get that fourth place for the playoffs. So we’re excited about where we are.”

A large portion of the growth has had to come from a trio of freshmen who have jumped straight to varsity. Two of those, point guard Chennedy Carter and Lindsey Wurm, start for the Lady Tigers. Making that kind of transition can be overwhelming.

“You think about going from an eighth-grade, middle school game to playing Duncanville in one year; that’s scary,” Goldberg said. “I mean, that would scare me at first. That’s a huge part of it – the growth and the learning curve and understanding the attention to detail that has to be put into every single second of the game. They’re starting to forget about the learning curve a bit and starting to focus on the task at hand. That’s been a big part of our growth.”

Goldberg points out that her upperclassman, particularly Kimayah Johnson and KiAsha Harris, are taking ownership of the team and helping to bring along the youngsters.

“We’ve got a fun little dynamic of us being the coaches, but also having the older girls acting as coaches to the freshmen. It’s cool to see the older girls take the younger girls under their wings, and in the other sense, the younger girls stepping up in this environment.”

With odds stacked against them, the Lady Tigers are turning their attention to the back half of the 7-5A slate with the goal of making the playoffs. Many coaches would say they’re going to take it one game at a time, but Goldberg and her team are looking even smaller picture than that.

“We’re not even breaking it down by game,” she explained. “We’re breaking it down by quarter. We’re trying get nit-picky with this. I think it’s going to be an exciting ride. I’m excited to see what we do.”

Mansfield’s next two opponents, Cedar Hill on Tuesday and DeSoto on Friday, will be key in determining whether the Lady Tigers can reach their goal.

“The girls know we have to get those and the girls are excited about it,” Goldberg said. “They’re starting to believe and that’s what we’re looking for is that they believe we can win … I think there are a bunch of teams that have a chance. I think it’s going to be a dogfight until the end.”

Meanwhile, Timberview is in good shape halfway through District 7-5A play. The Lady Wolves have just a lone loss, an eight-point defeat to Duncanville, leaving them alone in second place.

In District 15-4A, Summit sits in second place, a game behind Arlington Seguin, the only team to beat the Lady Jaguars through the first round of district play. Legacy and Lake Ridge still have some work ahead of them to earn playoff berths, but at 3-4, both are certainly still in the mix.

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