Entering the final game of the regular season, The Colony girls basketball team could have easily thrown in the towel, content with where they were as the playoffs neared.
Locked into the No. 3 seed out of District 8-5A, they already knew their postseason fate. Win or lose, they were aware of where they would land in the playoff bracket.
Yet none of that mattered. They came in hungry and ready to knock down one of the top teams in Texas on Senior Night, which is just what they did against the co-district champion.
Behind defensive adjustments in the second half and monster efforts from the two Division I-bound seniors, The Colony (19-11, 9-3) pulled off the 63-54 win over No. 14-ranked Braswell (25-5, 10-2) on Tuesday to close out the regular season in style before the playoffs begin.
"You get to this time of the season, you kind of want it to play every game with a playoff mentality,” said Colby Pastusek, The Colony head coach. “That’s kind of what we try to build those days on and get ourselves mentally prepared for starting a playoff game on Monday. That was our focus going in. For seeding purposes, it didn’t mean anything to us, but getting ourselves ready for the playoffs it meant a lot mentality-wise. Hopefully that will keep us rolling going into next week.”
As The Colony finished the second quarter with just seven points and wound up trailing 29-23 at the break, Pastusek and her staff dialed up some adjustments - mainly defensively - that changed the course of the evening, getting out of the press and into more of a half court set.
The Colony’s defense settled into a nice groove shortly thereafter over the final 16 minutes, forcing eight turnovers and allowing 25 points in the second half compared to 40 of its own to earn the massive victory on its home court.
“They were getting some easy buckets,” Pastusek said. “We were having to work so hard to get ours. We were giving them some easy buckets because we weren’t rotating, so just getting out of our press and just really being able to concentrate on getting a good half-court stop. That was the biggest thing for us.”
It was the two Division I-bound seniors who stole the show again, highlighting what have been masterful careers before they embark on the next chapters of their journey. Tamia Jones (SMU) and Jewel Spear (Wake Forest) - the latter rated as one of the top 100 recruits in the 2020 class by ESPN’s HoopGurlz - combined for 49 of The Colony’s 63 points, with Jones going for 24 and Spear going for 25.
Jones helped The Colony weather the storm in the second half and take the lead for good. She scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a stretch where she scored seven consecutive points and hit two 3s to make it a 47-46 ballgame.
“You ask them to whatever they can try to do, they’ll do it,” Pastusek said. “From scoring points, moving defensively in different places to help the team. Both of those kids are so selfless. If one’s not scoring that night, the other one picks it up. They feed so well off of each other. They’ve had an amazing career here. We’re going to miss those guys. They’re in the record books in everything.”
Next to Jones after halftime was junior Aariyah Cotto, whose performance provided The Colony with key momentum before sealing the win.
Cotto scored seven points - all of which were in the third quarter - for a 17-13 frame for The Colony to trail by just two points going into the last eight minutes of the contest.
“I gave her a hard time coming out of halftime,” Pastusek said. “I said, ‘You’ve got fresh legs’ because she got in foul trouble early. I really challenged her at halftime to come up and produce. She was more fresh than anybody we had out there. She came out and gave some huge minutes, made some good defensive stops, scored some big buckets for us.”
The Colony now looks to build on its big win Tuesday heading into the playoffs following a third-place finish in District 8-5A, just one game back of Braswell and Lake Dallas.
“We could have laid down, got caught up in the Senior Night hoopla,” Pastusek said. “Just playing tough, doing what it takes to win. Braswell is a top team in the state. They’ve had a great season. They’re going to make a great run. She’s got a very talented group that she’s doing a great job with.
“There was nothing better for us to be prepared to get us into the mentality that we need to hopefully make another playoff run.”