Lady Jags are hopeful after season with new team

LASA+freshman+Jessie+Conolly+boxes+out+for+an+opposing+free+throw.+The+lady+jaguars+played+on+Nov.+27+against+St.+Michaels+Academy+in+a+18-60+loss.+photo+by+Elan+McMinn
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Lady Jags are hopeful after season with new team

LASA freshman Jessie Conolly boxes out for an opposing free throw. The lady jaguars played on Nov. 27 against St. Michaels Academy in a 18-60 loss. photo by Elan McMinn

LASA freshman Jessie Conolly boxes out for an opposing free throw. The lady jaguars played on Nov. 27 against St. Michaels Academy in a 18-60 loss. photo by Elan McMinn

LASA freshman Jessie Conolly boxes out for an opposing free throw. The lady jaguars played on Nov. 27 against St. Michaels Academy in a 18-60 loss. photo by Elan McMinn

LASA freshman Jessie Conolly boxes out for an opposing free throw. The lady jaguars played on Nov. 27 against St. Michaels Academy in a 18-60 loss. photo by Elan McMinn

McKenzi Popper, Staff Writer

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Girls varsity basketball faced a rough start to their 2018 season, going 0-6 in their first games. The girls’ first game against Lehman ended with a blowout 61-21 loss. LASA freshman Jessie Conolly, LBJ senior Makala Clayton, LBJ sophomore Kaycee Strother and Coach Tomeshia Stancil attributed their poor performance to a new team, after the graduation of several seniors.

“We had a lot of girls that graduated, so the team is fairly new,” Stancil said.

The second game of the season on Nov. 13 against Manor High School did not reflect the girls’ hard work and determination as well as they hoped it would, Stancil said. The Lady Jags gave up 49 points in the first quarter, and ended up losing 79-40. Despite the wide margins in this game and their season — in their first six games, the Lady Jags were defeated by an average margin of over 30 points — the team is not letting its spirits fall, according to Strother.

“We did good,” Strother said. “We still lost, but we did better than the first game. I know that!”
The girls lost only 40-33 in the third game against Weiss, in their closest game thus far in the season. Last year’s season, which ended with a trip to state, started much like this season: slowly with a few losses. However, after a few games, the girls began to win.

“Last season was fun,” Strother said. “We probably got the same stuff going on, but we got second to districts, [and] we went to state.”

With more than half of last year’s team graduating, many upperclassmen are stepping up to try and fill the leadership vacuum and lead the team back to state this year. A few players are showing real promise and team leadership skills, according to Stancil. Conolly, known as “J Fresh” to her teammates, is the first freshman on the varsity team since the 2013-2014 season.

“We have a freshman on varsity,” Strother said. “She’s doing really good, really good to be a freshman!”

According to her teammates, Conolly has done very well this season, especially being the only freshman, with adapting to her new team. However, with more than half of the players from last year’s team now graduated, the team is struggling to put together a cohesive team and game plan.

“We didn’t really run our plays… and and we kinda didn’t hustle very much,” Connolly said.

Although this has contributed to the team’s recent losses, it also gives the girls chances to build a cooperative, hardworking team together from scratch, according to Stancil.

“The season is looking good,” Stancil said. “I am very excited about the group of girls I’m working with this year. I have a lot of energetic, hard-working, and positive girls.”

Last year’s season was a rollercoaster of wins and losses, but ultimately the girls made it to the state tournament to cap off the season. If the team makes state this year, it will be the fifth year in a row that LBJ girls basketball will have competed at the state championship. However, it’s going to take a lot of work for them to get to that point again, Clayton said.

“We work hard. We do conditioning for the first half of practice, and then we run drills and scrimmage at the end,” 12th grader Makala Clayton said.

Practice involves not only getting up hours before school even starts but being willing to put their full efforts into every shot, drive, and scrimmage, Strother said.

“At the end of practice we clap it up and talk about our improvements during practice,” Strother said.
Building a whole new team from the ground up is tough and takes a lot of hard work and determination, Strother said, but they have their own ways of staying excited. The team has the tradition of “clapping it up” at the end of practice in order to bring them all together to reach their goals.

“We’ll communicate, talk on defense, and work as a team to get to victory,” Clayton said.