The mark of a good team is finding ways to win even on an off night.
That was just what Sunnyvale was able to do in its playoff opener against Van, fending off the upset bid with a 39-32 victory back on Feb. 12.
The Raiders were supposed to return to the court this week, but like all teams around the state, the playoffs took a backseat to the inclement weather that hit the state and caused numerous postponements.
After a lengthy layoff, Sunnyvale (25-1), the No. 4 team in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 4A state poll, is slated to take on No. 19 Bullard in the area round at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mineola High School.
The Raiders advanced to the second round, but it was not easy, as Van was within three at halftime and held Sunnyvale to one of its lowest scoring outputs of the season. Still, this is the time of year to survive and advance and that it what the Raiders did.
“We did not shoot the ball well in our playoff opener, but I was really pleased with our defensive effort” Sunnyvale head coach Jill McDill said. “Sometimes defense can save you on a night when your shots just aren’t falling.”
The Raiders have put together quite an impressive resume. They have won 23 consecutive games since their lone loss, a narrow 50-46 decision against Bishop Lynch, the No. 3 team in the TABC 6A Private Schools poll.
Sunnyvale has non-district victories over six playoff teams and won its district games by an average of 38.8 points.
“We knew we had the opportunity to have a really good team this year,” McDill said. “We tried to schedule some tough opponents and I have been really pleased with how the girls have responded and played during the season.”
Sunnyvale has gotten contributions from several players, including senior Chloe Thomas, sophomore Micah Russell and others.
But the two engines that make the Raiders run are juniors Brinley Andrews and Takoya Stallings. That duo leads the team in several categories, including scoring and they combined for 28 of their 39 points in the playoff win.
“Brinley and Takoya have always shown signs of greatness. Now they are both playing at that level on a consistent basis,” McDill said. “Brinley has improved her shooting and ability to attack the basket. Takoya has improved her finishing around the basket and rebounding.”
Sunnyvale expects to be challenged by state-ranked Bullard and then could have a quick turnaround against No. 7 Brownsboro (23-1), who has only one loss itself.
But the Raiders are not looking too far ahead, understanding that the ultimate goal is still weeks away.
“We would love to get on a roll,” McDill said. “We want to compete and be our best each time we get an opportunity to play.”