A program continues to grow. There are the defining moments that tell the story. All you have to do with the Northwest girls basketball program is witness what it did the week of Jan. 19.
This team enjoyed arguably its biggest week since the last season it made the playoffs, five years ago. The Lady Texans (16-9, 6-3 in District 5-6A) defeated Keller Fossil Ridge in overtime, 52-45, and then used a big fourth quarter to win at Denton Guyer, 43-39.
Don’t look now, but when the week began, Northwest was tied for second place with Guyer. The Lady Texans played host to Keller Central on Tuesday and will play at NISD rival Northwest Byron Nelson on Friday.
The theme of those two victories was Northwest’s ability to finish. The Lady Texans pitched a shutout in overtime against the Lady Panthers (10-0) and then outscored the Lady Wildcats, 12-5, in the final period. Northwest helped itself at the free-throw line in both games. It went a respectable 13-of-21 against Fossil Ridge. The Lady Texans also attempted 47 against Guyer and converted 16 of their last 19.
“It’s a combination of two things,” coach Rusty Johnson said. “Because we don’t have great height, we really can’t change what we do. What we do have is good guard play as anyone in the district, in my opinion. And then we have five other kids who will get in there and do the dirty work that you don’t see. Once you get that, then everybody has bought in like Maddie Dodgen, my daughter Haley, Breanna Hardin and Marley Floyd.”
However, Johnson is trying to manage the excitement. There no talk about the postseason. There’s no mention about how many more wins are needed. It’s about coming to practice each morning and executing and concentrating. It’s about playing well on Tuesday and then worrying about Friday on Friday.
Johnson built a power at Aledo and took his 2012-2013 team to the Class 4A state tournament. So he understands what it takes to govern a team through a season, especially when it is peaking.
“I’ve always said that there is strength in numbers,” Johnson said. “It takes a collection of kids to believe in themselves and that everything they do is for a reason. It’s not glamorous, but they’re willing to do it.
“It’s about making the extra pass or setting the screen or blocking out. That’s what it takes. All we’re asking them to do is just win today. I don’t know how it’s going to end up, but this is as fun a ride that I’ve been on.”
Johnson played dad over the weekend flew up to Boston to see his son, Taylor, play for Dartmouth against Harvard in an Ivy League contest. Dad may be asked to return. The Big Green pulled off a 70-61 upset to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Crimson. Johnson, who starred with Northwest’s boys team in 2013-2014, played six minutes without scoring. He’s averaging 2.3 points per game coming off the bench.
Byron Nelson update
The Lady Bobcats (8-16, 0-9 in 5-6A) went through a difficult week with losses to Keller Timber Creek and Denton Ryan. Now out of playoff contention, it’s a matter of coach Darren Wilson’s team finding that first district win. Nelson played at district leader Keller Tuesday before playing host to Northwest on Friday.