When Rusty Johnson inherited the Northwest girls basketball program, some might have argued it was a hopeless situation.
The 2012-2013 team won two games. In fact, the three seasons before Johnson arrived in northern Tarrant County, the Lady Texans program combined to win 10 games.
In 2014-2015, the Lady Texans are going to the playoffs and trying to collect a 20-win season. Northwest (19-9, 7-4 in District 5-6A) clinched a playoff berth with a 49-42 victory at Denton Ryan last Friday.
“We have good kids,” Johnson said. “When I interviewed for the job (with AD Susan Elza), I said this was going to be a process where we were going to have to keep making positive steps. The first thing I wanted to do here is make sure that our last regular season game was relevant.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Johnson has done that. The Lady Texans were playing for a playoff berth in 2013-2014 before missing the postseason by one game. With the playoffs assured, Tuesday’s regular season finale against district champion Keller carried even more.
Northwest entered the game tied for second with Denton Guyer (also 9-4 and playing Denton Ryan). Had both teams won or lost, it would have forced a tie. From there, a coin flip or the two playing later in the week would determine the second and third seeds.
District 5-6A’s second seed will meet the third-place team in District 6-6A, Plano. The third seed will meet 6-6A’s second seed, Flower Mound. With or without a tie, coaches from both districts are expected to meet Wednesday to determine bi-district playoff matchups.
“We played really hard and with intensity because they knew something was on the line Friday,” Johnson said. “They played like a team that was comfortable with controlling its own destiny. For them to go and get it is a great moment for them. Personally, it’s a great moment for me.”
Winning on the road
Northwest’s climb to the postseason can be traced to the work it did on the road. The Lady Texans finished 5-2 away from NHS as they won at Keller Timber Creek, Keller Central, Byron Nelson, Denton Ryan and Denton Guyer. The losses were at Keller and Keller Fossil Ridge, both playoff teams.
When it comes to league play, protecting the home floor and having a solid road record usually means the postseason. That also reveals a team that doesn’t mind when the crowd’s pulling for its opponent. Solid leadership from the likes of Alexi Brigham and Maddie Dodgen has set the tone, Johnson said.
“It tells me that we have a close-knit team,” he said. “A team that bonds together on the road is when you find out if you have a team or not. How close they are is what has made this team special.”
Byron Nelson update
Frustration finally ended for the Lady Bobcats this past Friday. They snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 49-36 victory over Keller Central to pick up their first district win.
Nelson (9-19, 1-12 in 5-6A) saw Hannah Sellinger score 17 points in the victory. The 49 points were also the most the Lady Bobcats scored since scoring 68 against Carrollton R.L. Turner in the Saginaw Boswell Holiday tournament.
Nelson finished the regular season Tuesday at Keller Fossil Ridge with a chance to play spoiler. The Lady Panthers needed a win to clinch the district’s final playoff spot.