Northeast Tarrant

Lady Mustangs forward makes the most of her chance

Reem Bayaa (42) has averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game through the first district game of the season.
Reem Bayaa (42) has averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game through the first district game of the season. Grapevine Courier

Maybe there wasn’t one thing that stood out about Reem Bayaa’s game. But in her case, the entire package sold her to the Grapevine coaching staff.

The senior small forward languished with the Lady Mustangs varsity for the previous two seasons. Playing time was hard to come by. But it’s a different story with new head coach Lindy Lombard.

Bayaa has started all 17 games and is averaging 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. And those are numbers that can climb. Grapevine (15-2, 1-0) won its District 6-5A opener against Eastern Hills, 70-28, and looked to stay perfect this past Friday against Fort Worth Dunbar.

“She brings a toughness to our team and every team needs that kind of player,” Lombard said. “Reem isn’t afraid to mix it up. She gives up some size on the glass but she’s become a great offensive rebounder. She’s a really great young lady. If anything, we’ve asked her to be a little meaner.”

As long as she has been on the court, Bayaa was going to be known as the underdog. Playing a front court position at 5-8, she is typically going to surrender two or three inches against her opposite number.

Yet that doesn’t seem to be a problem, especially on the offensive end. Bayaa has actually emerged as one of the Lady Mustangs’ top offensive rebounders. With a career-high 17 against Fort Worth Eastern Hills on Dec. 16, Bayaa scored about 10 of them on offensive putbacks.

“Definitely, my goal is to be as good at rebounding as I can,” Bayaa said. “Scoring isn’t as important, but I am becoming more comfortable with it. Really, it’s just practicing and working on the little things every day.”

And the good news is that she hasn’t hit her goals yet. Lombard set the rebounding goal at 8.0 per game. So the fact that Bayaa is two away from that shows there still is a ways to go. But she’s also had three double-digit rebounding performances, so it shows she can mix it up.

Nonetheless, Bayaa’s presence on this team is going to be important with the season-ending knee injury to senior point guard Mandi Routon. While the ball handling roles will still rest with Nicole Taake and Sydney Bowers, the roles are changing for everybody else.

So that’s where Bayaa’s scoring could be an important development as the season unfolds. She’s showing a pretty good scoring touch. In limited attempts, Bayaa is shooting 60 percent from 3-point range, 45 percent from the field overall and 77 at the free-throw line. Lombard gave Bayaa the chance. The results speak for themselves.

“I thought with a new opportunity, I wanted to prove myself to the new coach,” Bayaa said. “All I did was just keep working hard. When I started our first scrimmage it was really a great feeling because it showed that everything I was doing meant something. I just have to keep playing at a high level all the time.”

Colleyville Heritage update

The Lady Panthers (9-7, 1-0 in District 7-6A) opened district play with an impressive offensive effort. They ran away from Coppell, 73-56, on Dec. 16. Freshman phenom Bryn Gerlich continued her brilliant debut season with 21 points while New York move-in Zhanae Whitney added 18 points. Before the holiday, Colleyville Heritage was looking to go to 2-0 as it faced Richland on Dec. 19.