Being overlooked may be the best thing going for a program that doesn’t have a track record of winning. That’s Trophy Club Byron Nelson girls basketball to a T.
It’s a program that didn’t command the respect of opponents. First-year coach Stephanie Shaw quickly learned that as well.
“A bunch of teams thought we were an easy win and looked past us,” junior forward Hunter Roach said. “They didn’t think it was going to be that hard. We were a blow off. They could beat us by 60 and move on.”
The funny thing is that it’s helped the Lady Bobcats jump off to the best start in school history going into the final month of the season. More importantly, they started 5-1 in the district and as of Jan. 9 are 16-5 overall. The Lady Bobcats have defeated Euless Trinity, Flower Mound and Southlake Carroll in recent play. By comparison, Nelson went 15-16 and 5-9 in 2016-2017.
This is a program looking for cohesion. Shaw is the third different head coach in three seasons. Darren Wilson, who guided the program to the playoffs in two of his four seasons, retired after 2015-2016. Jim Avery lasted for only 2016-2017.
It took some tough love from an early December team meeting to reset the season. Shaw also changed her offense to get more productivity from the front court.
The buy-in is real. So are the results. Let the perception continue, the Lady Bobcats say.
“The girls bought into the expectations we set,” Shaw said. “Everything we’ve asked them to do, they have done and more so. We raised the bar of what we want from them.”
The transition, though, to Shaw wasn’t flawless. The beginning of the school year gave the appearance of a team that was a step slow. Players were in Phase 1 when Shaw wanted them to be in Phase 3.
Turnovers were compounded by poor execution. The good thing was that the season had not started. Shaw said players trusted the system. It just wasn’t easy. But it was a learning experience for Shaw. Since she was hired in June, she could not see her team and learn work habits until August.
The results weren’t instant. In fact, a low point was a 55-37 loss to Prosper on Dec. 1 in which effort, energy and passion fizzled.
The next practice wasn’t pretty.
“When we were going through it, I thought we’d die,” Roach said. “But I also understand why. We hadn’t been playing together. Coach Shaw pushed us and demanded more than even we’ve ever been demanded from before.
“During the meeting, she asked what we wanted out of the program. And if we had bought in, then we need to play like it.”
Since that day, Nelson won its next five games by double figures. The Lady Bobcats are winning on both ends of the floor. Since volleyball-playing senior Jalyn Vance, 6-2, joined the program, Shaw has worked more of a post style of offense. Vance has combined with senior 6-2 post Jane Beatty with Roach as an inside/outside option.
But the guards have shown the versatility. They accounted for 43 points in a 63-48 victory at Flower Mound.
The Lady Bobcats are averaging just under 50 points per game. They are holding opponents to under 40.
Playoff tickets are not punched. Much can happen over the next six weeks. However, momentum is there. It’s all about how Shaw can bring this program through this demanding time. Handle that and the perception changes.
“You don’t win without players,” Shaw said. “We have them. It’s about getting used to a new culture and system. A great sign for me is when they start asking questions about doing different things. They want to get better.”