Northeast Tarrant

Tough games, losses got Lady Raiders ready for deep run

Playing challenging teams and tournaments has Bell players like freshman Kyla Davis (center) in playoff shape.
Playing challenging teams and tournaments has Bell players like freshman Kyla Davis (center) in playoff shape. senglish@star-telegram.com

There’s a difference between winning and winning at the right time.

For example, many teams have gone on to win championships — even at the state, national and professional level — with numerous losses on their record. Virtually every time you will hear a coach give one reason at the top in their list for success.

They played a tough schedule.

The L.D. Bell girls basketball team has played such a schedule this season. As a result, it finds itself battling for the District 5-6A championship as the second half of league play gets underway.

“We’ve got some losses to good teams, but I told them it doesn’t matter as long as we’re playing well when district gets here, and we are,” Lady Raiders head coach Brock Pembleton said.

The Lady Raiders’ nondistrict schedule included three of the toughest tournaments to be found in the Allen Tournament, the Jack Frost Tournament in Georgetown and the prestigious Mansfield Spring Creek Tournament. They faced some of the best competition in the state, and they gained valuable experience in a hurry.

“We’ve won some games because we didn’t panic, and we let some get away from us,” Pembleton said. “But in both cases, they’ve helped us a lot.

“They know they can win these big games, and when we didn’t, they know why.”

Something else that helped was the return of two seniors who have spent their entire high school career on the Bell varsity, guards Lexi Gordon and Tiana Johnson. Gordon, who has committed to play for the University of Connecticut next season, recently scored 40 points.

Gordon and Johnson helped the Lady Raiders to one of the most successful seasons in team history as freshmen. They won a district championship and advanced to the 5A Region I final before losing to eventual state runner-up (and 2013 state champion) Duncanville.

“As freshmen, Lexi and Tiana were on a team with seniors that taught them how to win and go deep (in the playoffs), and now they’re teaching that to the younger players.”

Nowhere was that more evident than early in district when the Lady Raiders defeated rival Euless Trinity 46-42 on the Bell court. The Lady Trojans were ranked No. 2 in the state entering the game.

Freshman Myra Gordon, Lexi’s younger sister, led the Lady Raiders with 17 points in that game.

The Lady Raiders visit Trinity on Friday in a rematch could decide the district championship. Trinity entered last weekend ranked fifth in the state.

Pembleton said the win over Trinity was largely the result of an attitude they’ve had all season, an attitude he said they will have to maintain if they are to have success henceforth and through the postseason.

“We had to look at Trinity as just another district ballgame,” he said. “If we’re ahead when the buzzer goes off, we’ll celebrate.”

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