The measure of a program’s growth is wins. When it comes to the Northwest girls basketball program, wins are telling the story of what second-year coach Rusty Johnson has accomplished.
With its 57-47 overtime victory over Denton Ryan on Jan. 13, the Lady Texans won their 14th game with a little more than half of the season to play. In 2013-2014, Northwest went 13-14.
Games like the one against the Lady Raiders showed the steely nature of this team. The Lady Texans surrendered a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter but then outscored Ryan in the extra period, 10-0.
Northwest put itself in a very good position to make a postseason run as the first half closed against district leader Keller this past Friday, played after the early press deadline. The Lady Texans made the turn and played host to Keller Fossil Ridge on Tuesday and play at Denton Guyer on Friday. At one point, Northwest was all alone in third place.
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“It was a big win over Ryan,” Johnson said. “The game just had a different feel to it. It was one of those games where we had two or three opportunities to fold and we didn’t. We’ve grown so much. It’s not the same old same old. We just kept our heads and found a way to win the game.”
What has helped is selflessness. Senior Marley Floyd, who was the starting point guard in 2013-2014, is now coming off the bench. That’s a move where the greater good is at the center of the decision.
“She’s not only accepted her role,” Johnson said, “she’s really played very well coming off the bench because she’s a ball handler. You need selfless kids. They are huge to our success and where we hope we’re headed.”
Junior Equayla Smith’s emergence as a vital part of this team really began last year. She spent the second half of the district season coming off the bench.
But because of her athleticism, Johnson gave the 5-2 Smith the reins of the offense and made her the point guard. That move helped for several reasons. First, it took sophomore Alexis Bigham off the ball and really made her a shooting guard/small forward, where she had more scoring opportunities. Bigham’s advantage is that she is left-handed, so she is going to be in a position where she can create matchup problems.
Plus, it allowed Maddie Dodgen to play more freely on the offense, where she can spot up and take three-pointers (remember, Dodgen plays the post on the defensive end). Every offense like Northwest’s needs that kind of set shooter.
“Equayla is such a well-skilled player and her ball handling is such a big part of what we need to do with the offense,” Johnson said. “We have several places where we can get the looks and shots that we want. We’re not going to scare anyone with our overall size. But Equayla has really done a great job of getting people in position.”
Byron Nelson update
Darren Wilson’s Lady Bobcats have hit the rough part of the season as he likely anticipated. Nelson (8-13, 0-6 in 5-6A) was still looking for its first win going into the first half district finale last Friday against Keller Fossil Ridge. Nelson continued its season this week on Tuesday against at Keller Timber Creek before playing host to Denton Ryan on Friday.