After starting the season slow, Lometa’s girls basketball team has hit its stride at the ideal time, improving to 3-1 (6-12 overall) in District 28-1A, Division II by beating Oglesby 35-29 on Friday. On Saturday, Lady Hornets second-year head coach Marcus Chapa talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittington.
You pulled out another district win last night. How did you feel the girls played?
It’s a “W,” but I just feel real uncomfortable about it. Offensively, we struggled. We were sloppy, had turnovers and just weren’t making our reads. We didn’t have any good looks, but it is in district, and you usually have a sloppy game in district, so I’m glad we got it out of the way and got the win.
Mikhaila Barnett, our leading scorer, who is averaging 19.6 points with 13 rebounds, only had three points, and those came off free throws. ... She was struggling, and the team looks up to her. If she is to the point where she is struggling, then we all kind of feed off her momentum. She’s a team leader, but I had a freshman, Victoria Rangel, who stepped up and nailed three 3-pointers and came in with another two points in the fourth quarter to be the leading scorer with 11.
It was a low-scoring game for us, and we’re just not executing offensively. We had a pretty good game defensively, but every time we go to Oglesby, it gets a little rough, so I’m just glad we got out with a “W” and nobody got hurt.
Overall, are you pleased with where the team is?
From the beginning of the season to now, we have come such a long way. At the beginning of the season, our freshmen were just freshmen. Stepping on the court for them was a big game changer from playing in seventh and eighth grade. I’m truly proud of our freshmen and how they’ve gotten together. I’ve got four that play 90 percent of the game, and they are hustling. They are young, and they are going to make mistakes.
Against Oglesby, they came out and played like freshmen, but we still got the “W,” and they deserved it. I’m just very proud because of where they started. I had a coach in high school that told me it is not how you start but how you finish. At this point in district, we are playing to our fullest potential right now. We’ve got players coming back next year so, all in all, I am truly satisfied with the changes we’ve made from day one to now. It’s a big change. We’re clicking, we’re working, we understand zone defenses, and girls are understanding the offensive plays that we run. We execute it, and we know why. That’s a big deal right now with the freshmen because they are learning the game. So, I’m pretty proud of where we are right now.
I know you want to win now, but when you have such a young team, do you have to take a step back and look toward the future?
Having a young team like that, one game, you are going to be hot. Against Evant (on Tuesday), we were hot, making our reads, and we were just clicking. We were rolling. We were executing. Then, against Oglesby, it was vice versa. Just having a young team like that, you can’t truly find consistency. You get great games from these girls, and you see their fullest potential, yet they are still green, and they are still going to make those easy mental mistakes just because their mentality is on a freshman level. They haven’t been playing that varsity ball for two or three years. So, it has its good and its bad. Right now, I’ve got to groom them. We go over things and break down film. We are just doing the best we can right now with having a young team, and I couldn’t ask for more. These girls are working hard. They truly are. They play hard for me, and to get a team to play hard and buy in to your program is hard.
This is my second year coaching here, and it takes three to five years to establish a program. The first year, we were very successful. In the second year, we aren’t missing a beat. We lost five seniors last year, but I gained five freshmen that have the work ethic and the mentality of older juniors and seniors. I’m truly satisfied with where we are at. We’re green, and we’ll make mistakes, but we get back on track, and we’ll fix it. Then, here come a couple other mistakes. It is just a mindset of a freshman player and a young team that is what we are kind of struggling with, and as a coach, you’re going to have that.
Well, you are getting hot at the right time. What has to happen to keep the ball rolling?
We just have to come together as a unit. We play our best basketball when we humble ourselves as a team and depend on each other. We play our best basketball when the girls coming off the bench are analyzing the game and the positive encouragement is there. That is when we play our best basketball.
We’ve got Jonesboro on Tuesday, and we’ve got to execute. Their girls are all 6-foot, sitting back in a zone. They dominate the rebounds, and we are going to have to rotate the ball around the outside of the perimeter and make them exhausted. We have to make our shots from the elbow and our corner shots.
We’ve got to beat them between transitions and fast breaks. We’re going to have to play smart basketball. The talent is there, but we’re going to have to step it up and draw the smart fouls and work the defense. To keep this going, we’ve got to keep everyone’s mind right. Everybody has to understand their role and how they contribute to this team.