It didn’t matter if a team won the Class 3A, 4A or 5A 2013-2014 state championship or played in the state tournament. Teri Morrison wanted her basketball team to play them.
Carroll’s coach put together what she called the most difficult non-district schedule in her seven years running the program. Carroll played or plays four opponents – Duncanville, Argyle, Brock and McKinney North – which were in Austin this past March. Couple that with Morrison’s philosophical shift and that would cause anyone’s heart rate to tick a little faster.
Unlike past squads that didn’t have a three-point attempt it didn’t like, Morrison suddenly finds herself with a roster filled with front court possibilities and bypassing long range for the low post. Yes, Carroll is going to pound the ball inside more in 2014-2015.
“It’s been a transition for me,” Morrison said. “I’ve had to take a deep breath. There’s more ball movement and patience in the half court. When people play us, they’re just going to see how we play every pass.”
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Carroll’s options in the block are tied to junior 6-2 junior post Anna Hurlburt, 6-2 senior post Madison Drescher and 5-11 sophomore Priscilla Smeenge, who can swing between the back court and the front court. Hurlburt is averaging 12.7 points, while Smeenge and Drescher are averaging 10.5 and 7.5 per game respectively.
And it’s paying off. The Lady Dragons are finding a way to win and grinding out wins. At 5-1 before Tuesday’s game against Duncanville, Carroll won the Colleyville Heritage tournament, including a 34-31 decision over Arlington Bowie, the team that knocked it out of the playoffs in February in the Region I quarterfinals. Carroll has also defeated Austin Westlake and Brock.
“The Bowie win tells me that even though we were inconsistent, this team finds a way to win,” Morrison said. “With new kids on the perimeter who are just learning, this group believes it can. We’re not the finesse team we used to be. We’re an athletic and physical group.”
Senior 5-10 point guard Kennedy Leonard recently signed her letter of intent with the University of Colorado. To be sure, she has become Morrison’s coach on the floor. Leonard has run this offense for the previous three seasons.
However, she always had a steady second ball handler like Gretchen Morrison. For now, that’s not the case. This is Leonard’s team and Teri Morrison has given Leonard the freedom to run the offense. Leonard is already averaging 9.0 assists and 4.5 steals per game. She is also the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game.
“Kennedy’s one of the top guards in the country. She’s the quarterback,” Morrison said. “Even when the ball is not falling, she’s stepping up and doing other things to help.”
Take the 58-56 overtime win at Brock on Nov. 18. Leonard drilled the game-tying three-pointer and then collected the game-winning basket in the extra frame.
When Carroll pulled out that win at Brock, it gave Morrison 600 wins for her career. She was rewarded with a surprise dinner.
“I’ve been fortunate to collect my 500th and 600th career wins at Carroll,” Morrison said. “I’ve had some great kids to work with who have helped make this possible.”
About that schedule
Carroll’s date with Duncanville is followed by another game with Bowie on Dec. 2. They Lady Dragons then play in the Pflugerville Tournament Dec. 4-6. The program is then flying to San Diego to play in a holiday tournament on Dec. 26-31. That tournament also features Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., where President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia attends and plays basketball. Carroll meets Sidwell in the second game.