Emily Taylor is in her third year as a senior for Haslet V.R. Eaton’s girls basketball team.
Well, at least that’s her take on it. This second-year varsity program has never experienced a senior class until this year. She’s always been among the most experienced players on the court, regardless of her grade level.
Everything is new for the nine seniors in this program. However, experience is the greatest teacher. While the Lady Eagles may not have the gaudy record, usually hovering around .500 this season, a few victories in district have shown the growth.
“I’ve been with this program since it was JV, and I’ve felt like I was carrying a leadership role since I was 15,” said Taylor, who started with head coach Rusty Johnson at Justin Northwest before moving with Johnson and several teammates to Eaton. “What we’re trying to do is build a culture that is committed to making sure that players are on the same page.”
Johnson, who turned Aledo and Northwest into playoff programs, is attempting to do the same with Eaton. The Lady Eagles now have a veteran roster trying to carve its own postseason path in the coming weeks.
Playing at the varsity level no longer brings anxiety. Learning experiences have gone from shock and awe to figuring out a way to win. Johnson let the nuances of the program develop naturally.
“Our belief was key, because we knew what to expect and knew we could compete,” Johnson said. “Last year, we pretty much got it handed to us in our first four district games. Our confidence was pretty low. This year, we’ve had a better start. The players commitment has carried it a long way.”
Maturity and confidence changed the tone. There were also changes in the schedule that presented better competition. That was in the Ponder tournament, where the field was changed. Eaton has only lost a game by more than 11 points once thus far, before their Jan. 5 game against Azle.
“The difference is that last year is that our shooters shot and our drivers drove,” said senior Molly Gideon, who moved in from Springtown for 2016-2017. “Things have changed to where our shooters drive and drivers shoot. There are just other skills we’re so much better at. We’re just used to playing with each other.”
Eaton is never going to win the battle in the block. No one is taller than 5-11. Johnson is used to that. Most of his teams at Aledo and Northwest were guard-oriented.
His goal is to create a culture so that execution will win out over size or matchups. He got to see a bit of the culture he’s created in the past when Aledo defeated Eaton 59-38 on Jan. 2.
“As a goal, we decided to hold each other accountable for what we do,” senior Jaycie Johnson said. “It’s a huge characteristic of this team. That’s why I think we’re growing and changing things as we go on. It’s not about a player’s stats. It’s about making sure we know what to do.”