The Lake Dallas and The Colony girls basketball teams punched playoff tickets out of 8-5A last season, including a district championship won by the latter, and both carry similar expectations into 2019-20.
That has translated into plenty of wins in the early going for both the Lady Cougars and Lady Falcons, as both teams look to fortify their identities in time for Tuesday’s opening tip in district play.
“We’ve played a gauntlet schedule to hopefully get us prepared for 8-5A and the rest of our season,” said Colby Davis Pastusek, The Colony head coach. “We’ve played a lot of good opponents and improved in a lot of areas. Looking at the slate of games we’ve played, I’m pretty happy to be sitting at 9-5.”
The Lady Cougars haven’t been bashful about swinging with the state’s heavyweights and have tested their mettle in a number of close games. Entering the week, The Colony had already been involved in five contests decided by two points — posting a 4-1 record in those matchups.
“Game situations are something that we work on a lot in practice. I think anytime you have a close game, whether it’s preseason or district, you’ll make some mistakes and you learn what not to do,” Pastusek said. “We had similar late-game scenarios against Prosper and San Antonio Reagan, and we didn’t make the right decision against Prosper and then we learned from it and fixed in an identical scenario against Reagan.”
It’s also welcome experience for The Colony’s underclassman-heavy bench.
“We’ve got four sophomores and two freshmen, so we’ve had to get them up to speed,” Pastusek said. “Our schedule definitely didn’t do them any favors and there were no easy wins, so they got thrown into the fire early. We want to see who can contribute in what areas and who can grow up quick.”
It helps to have two of the state’s premier players to help steer that learning curve, and the Lady Cougars’ younger players have just that in seniors Tamia Jones and Jewel Spear — two Division I college commits capable of lighting up any opposing defense for 25-plus points apiece.
On most nights, the Lady Cougars go as the Spear-Jones duo goes, with Pastusek noting that junior Aariyah Cotto and senior Jasmine Brown have given the rotation a boost in an effort to take some of the pressure off Spear and Jones as The Colony eyes another deep playoff run after advancing to the regional semifinals last season.
“They have extremely high expectations. We lost a heart breaker to the two-time defending state champions last year and they felt like they let one get away against an extremely talented team in Amarillo,” Pastusek said. “They have high expectations to get back to that level, but they’re also smart enough kids to know the improvements that many of the teams in our district have made.”
One of those teams could very well be a Lake Dallas bunch that returns the bulk of its bi-district finalist rotation, albeit with a couple significant changes in place. One comes at head coach, where Jordan Davis takes the reins after a productive stint at Marcus.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. Everybody here is great and a lot of these girls have played together since they were at least in elementary school, so they all know how each other plays,” Davis said. “We’ve been working really hard and you can tell these girls are hungry and their work ethic shows that. It’s been really fun to coach them.”
The Lady Falcons have had to soldier on without one of their most promising young players after sophomore Mackenzie Buss suffered an ACL injury during the first half of Lake Dallas’ first game in fall league. Buss was named last season’s 8-5A Newcomer of the Year.
“My heart broke for her when it happened,” Davis said. “You can tell how passionate she is about the game and she’s been working her trail off, not just with her physical therapy, but she’s helped out a ton on the bench as well. We call her ‘Coach Buss.’”
Davis said that senior Josephine Elliott and sophomore Bailey Broughton have handled point guard duties with Buss sidelined, with Elliott doubling as a team captain alongside senior Dorian Norris as the two begin the final seasons of their lengthy varsity careers at Lake Dallas.
“They’re great kids. Jo and Dorian are both senior captains who help the younger kids and bring so much leadership,” Davis said. “They’ve been there before, despite having several head coaches, and I think they really want to succeed and do well as seniors and make a name for themselves and this program.”
The Lady Falcons are loaded with experience elsewhere, between sophomores Jorja Elliott and Allie Buchanan, plus some encouraging work early on from freshman Camryn Richardson.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a kid get in the gym as much as Camryn,” Davis said.
The Lady Falcons get to put that into practice against 8-5A opposition for the first time on Tuesday when they visit Justin Northwest for a 6:15 p.m. tipoff. That same night, The Colony hosts Little Elm at 6 p.m.