They must have felt like they were hearing echoes.
Despite a coaching change from Lindy Slagle to Greg Gay this past summer, the approach to basketball differed little with the Grapevine girls basketball program.
A menacing man-to-man defense would be the path to success and returning to the playoffs. It’s just that the message changed a few octaves.
“There are a couple of differences, but not too much,’’ junior post Kate Dickson said. “We adapted to some things. We just need to be really strong in what we do.’’
The Lady Mustangs (29-7) face their toughest challenge in Denison (30-4) in the Class 5A Region I area round at 7:00 p.m. Thursday at Lucas Lovejoy.
Grapevine is playing in this round for the fourth consecutive season. Denison, No. 9 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 5A poll, is on a 12-game winning streak.
Gay, who arrived from Ponder, has always been a firm believer in using man as his defensive approach. Minus one quarter against Colleyville Heritage when it went zone, Grapevine has played only man. Don’t look for that change for however long this postseason run lasts.
“It’s a want-to type of thing to play defense and being committed to being good at it,’’ Gay said. “You don’t have to be the best athlete. All you have to have is a little heart. Some have bought in. Some are not quite there yet. But overall, we’ve played to what I hoped.’’
Effort has produced the results for Grapevine opponents:
- 30.3 overall field goal shooting percent (33.2 percent on 2-point attempts; 23.0 percent from 3-point range).
- 15.5 turnovers per game. More than half of those – 7.9 – are on Grapevine steals.
While matchups set the game plan, the Lady Mustangs will do the bulk of their work inside the 3-point line.
Gay’s rule is to start with a 3-foot cushion between defender and offensive player. It’s far enough away so that the defender can see the move and use one step to prevent the blow-by attempt. It’s close enough to make it hard to identify passing lanes. On to screens, players automatically switch.
“The main thing is making sure you know what the dominant hand is, and the shots someone takes, and how plays are run for her,’’ junior guard Samantha Tatum said. “There’s a lot to do on the court. Everything is now muscle memory and I know how to correct myself when something isn’t right.’’
The adjustment for Gay is that he is coaching at the highest level of high school basketball in his 15-year career. . Opponents have more offensive options that have to be scouted.
Defense will save a team from poor offensive outings. Grapevine had a tough shooting performance in its 42-35 victory over Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt in the bi-district round. The Lady Mustangs held Wyatt to one point in the second quarter and took control of the game.
In the second meeting in mid-January against Birdville, a team that averages nearly 52 points, Grapevine held the Lady Hawks in 40 points. Grapevine won, 46-40, in overtime.
Each game, Gay will look for the signs that lead to the numbers. He’s seen a lot of them.
“We’re limiting teams in their second chances and we’re blocking out,’’ Gay said. “We’re not giving up 3-pointers and we’re holding off big momentum changes. When we do the things we’re supposed to do, that gives us a chance.’’