Basketball coaches demand defense from their teams. Steals are the ultimate mark of being aggressive and frustrating the opponent.
But the category carries equal weight is deflections. Although the Colleyville Heritage girls basketball team was dragged into more of a half court approach against Grapevine this past Friday — the Lady Panthers won 48-35 — this team reacted accordingly because of its defense.
Look no further than senior shooting guard McKinley Charles. The box score shows 11 points. The box score kept by the stat team, however, shows how Charles was effective on defense. She had four steals and five deflections. That’s nine times where she influenced the other team’s offensive possession by either making it turn the ball over or making it start from scratch.
“We knew we had to pick it up and start scoring more,” Charles said. “There’s nothing you can do about shots. They either go in or they don’t. But what you can control is your defense. I thought I did pretty decent.”
That might be putting it mildly. Head coach Dianna Sager continues to stress to her team the importance of making the opponent work for shots. Active hands are good hands.
“We run a plus or minus grade on deflections,” Sager said. “But what McKinley does is simply because of her instincts. You can’t teach what she does. That’s all a product of what she sees and how she reacts.”
Colleyville Heritage (19-6, 7-0 District 8-5A) understands that it is the team that everybody is chasing for the remainder of the season. It’s unlikely that this team will be challenged very much because of the way it has handled the rest of the district opponents.
Perhaps the only push was on Friday at Grapevine. The Lady Mustangs jumped out to an early 8-2 lead and stayed within striking distance until the fourth quarter.
It simply came down to Colleyville Heritage’s defense and creating disruptions in passing lanes that caused all kinds of turbulence. That’s what this team is going to need if it hopes to make a long postseason run.
For the season, the Lady Panthers have collected 266 steals and created 190 deflections. That’s 456 opponent possessions that didn’t go as planned.
“This defensive team is probably in the top two or three I’ve had,” Sager said. “Our 2007 and 2011 teams were really good defensively as well. We just have to stick with what we do and maintain consistency.”
That defensive effort is something that can cause the negative talk to disappear. Colleyville Heritage has had a history of advancing to going to the postseason but also being eliminated in the bi-district round. The players know that history. They’ve heard it.
Sager has often referred to this team to being as good as the 2007 team that advanced to the then-Class 5A Region I tournament.
“Everybody expects us to get into the playoffs and then get out,” Charles said. “But our playing does the talking for us. We have plan on going quite a bit farther than the first round. We’ve gotten a lot better on defense. That’s why we like how we’re playing.”
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