The girls basketball banners at Justin Northwest High School show the gaps. The last time Northwest won a district championship was in 1998. The last time Northwest won a playoff game was in 2006.
When this program struggled mightily in the late 2000s and early 2010s, there didn’t appear to be much hope that things would change.
History, though, can change.
Destined to make the postseason for the third consecutive season, second-year head coach Cody Parris has put together a season that has the Lady Texans in contention to end the district championship drought and playoff win drought. More banners could be coming to the rafters.
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The start of the second half of District 6-5A play began on Tuesday when Northwest (18-9, 6-1) played Northwest V.R. Eaton. The Lady Texans were in second place behind district leader Saginaw Boswell.
“I really felt like we were going to have strong guard play and that we had some good young posts,” Parris said. “They just didn’t have any experience. We spent all offseason just working on everything from skills to fundamentals.”
Under Rusty Johnson – now at Eaton – Northwest broke through when it advanced to the 2014-2015 Class 6A postseason. It then continued last year with Parris. But the Lady Texans were eliminated in the bi-district round.
Moving down to Class 5A this year, Northwest seems to be in a better position. Instead of looking up at the rest of the district, the Lady Texans are looking eye-to-eye.
“Outside of some struggles to Boswell (Northwest lost, 63-43), we’ve really done a good job of holding people down,” Parris said. “Honestly, when we moved into 5A, I thought we had a good shot to do some things.”
Northwest’s offensive approach still is governed by how senior guard Alexus Brigham performs. Averaging nearly 20 points per game, Brigham had 28 and 25 points in wins over Aledo and Azle last week.
There are times when Brigham can take over a game. Yet there are other options in guards Abby Richmond and Jenna Dean and post Paige Thompson. That’s where Parris said he needs to make sure a second and third scorer can make this team more difficult to scout.
“Alexus is really mature in her work ethic and has just conditioned herself to be a leader for us,” Parris said. “That’s been important. When teams are trying to deny her the ball, she finds a way to get others involved. We have to, because we’ve lost games where she has scored 31 and 28 points.”
Parris has also taken a far different defensive approach. Instead of pressing and forcing turnovers or playing a tight man, the focus is more on limiting the opposing teams to one shot on each position. He wants his team to block out. With a program that is headed toward 20 wins, the results speak for themselves.
“I believe in forcing teams into executing what they want to do because that’s more pressure on them,” Parris said. “The key for us in the second half is just to continue to play with confidence and that we need to outwork the opponent. The good thing is that I operate with such a sense of urgency that they just look at me and say, ‘Coach. We got this.”’