Sports > Schools
In the hunt: Lady Wolves expecting big things once more in 2012-13
At the dawn of a new season, most teams emphasize looking forward.
Plano West girls basketball is focused on the future, but discussions of the past (specifically last season's 67-60 regional quarterfinal loss to Irving MacArthur) still make their way into the conversation occasionally.
"Any time the girls are slow or not focused in practice, we might mention that game," said Don Patterson, West head coach. "We want them to remember how close that game was and ask them if they want to go through all that again. That's one of those things where a loss can be good for you if you learn from it."
West has a number of girls capable of learning from the team's fourth straight loss in the regional quarters with eight returners from last season.
The bulk of those are seniors with Marissa Turk, Grace Horn, Devri Owens, Allison Staley, Randi Reinhardt and Mattie Swearingen back in the fold alongside junior Tyara Warren-Cox and sophomore Sydney Skinner.
"Obviously you're excited about the experience factor," Patterson said, "but that also means we have girls who know the program and what it takes to be successful in it."
But a veteran squad won't prevent some new faces from getting playing time.
That includes a trio of JV call-ups (juniors Morgan Laday, Meg Terry and sophomore Kyrie McNeil) and a pair new to the program (junior Kaelin Montgomery and freshman Natalie Chow). Montgomery, who Patterson said should help with, "defense and rebounding," is a transfer from Carrollton Newman Smith while Chow is the tallest player on the roster at 6-foot.
"Natalie is going to be a good one," Patterson said. "She is already starting to get a lot of college looks because of her size and skill at this age. She is kind of like Kiran (Lakhian, a senior last season who shared District MVP honors with Owens) in that she is very smart, has a lot of desire on defense and can see the court very well."
Patterson said Chow could play anywhere from center to point guard.
That may seem odd, but it fits a West system that has been undersized the past few years and frequently rolls with four-guard lineups.
"That is likely to be the case again this season with Skinner and Horn running the point and Owens at shooting guard.
Owens, a captain with Reinhardt, was the No. 1 scoring option last year at the point.
"I expect more of the same from Devri this season, if not even better," Patterson said. "She plays good defense and has plenty of leadership; she was big for us offensively last year and maybe taking her off the ball could help that too."
Owens is one of three returning starters, along with Warren-Cox and Reinhardt. Determining this year's starting lineup is more complex as Reinhardt and Swearingen are currently out with injuries. That has created starting opportunities for a variety of players, including Staley, who was the district Sixth Man of the Year last season.
"The good news for us is these girls aren't necessarily concerned with who is starting or their individual stats; they all buy into the team concept," Patterson said. "So we can use these early games and tournaments to mix and match, and see who can best run the offense and defense."
Defense, specifically the press, has become paramount to West's success of late.
That isn't likely to change this season.
"When you're biggest girl is 6-foot and she is a freshman, I'd say sticking with the press is probably the best idea," Patterson said.
The first look at that press came Tuesday against North Crowley. West held its opponent to just 12 points through three quarters of an eventual 56-26 victory.
"We practice our press every day," Patterson said. "We aren't necessarily the biggest team, but we have athletic girls that can handle the ball and cover the floor, so this is a good system for us. It's what we do and who we are."
District 8-5A got to see plenty of that the past two years and now West moves to 10-5A against teams like McKinney Boyd, which is coached by West alum and former Lady Wolves assistant Rochelle Vaughn. Vaughn said she will attempt to build her program like West, which makes sense given the Lady Wolves four straight district titles.
"To get to the playoffs and be successful, you have to do well in district first," Patterson said, "so that is one of our primary goals."
West starts the season at No. 8 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason poll.
Those rankings are led by defending Class 5A State Champions Duncanville. The only game the Lady Panthers lost last season was to the Lady Wolves. However, that came in the regular season and West's regional quarterfinal loss to MacArthur prevented a rematch with Duncanville in the regional finals.
If the Lady Wolves and Lady Panthers play in the postseason this year it would have to be in the Class 5A State Tournament.
"The current team always wants to be better than the one before them," Patterson said. "And I'm excited because I think we have that opportunity. The girls do too; they have been through the wars before and losing drives you. But they still have to go out there and earn it, because no one is going to give anything to us."