TYLER, Texas—Nine Juniors, three sophomores and no need for senior leadership.
Texas High's girls stepped up big multiple times in this year's regular-season play, which began with early season tournaments and ended with Friday night's emphatic victory over Sulphur Springs. With just several ticks of the clock left in the game, the Lady Tigers nailed the eventual game-winning shot and stole the inbound pass to seal their fate as the No. 1 seed from District 16-5A.
That was just one of many clutch moments to get the Lady Tigers to where they are now—a top-seeded team going into tonight's postseason play against prominent Dallas-area team Highland Park.
The kicker? All of that was done with no seniors on the roster.
But don't tell Texas High coach Craig Collvins his junior-laden team may not have the experience for a postseason run. He will quickly tell you maturity plays just as big a part in winning as anything.
"It's pretty rare when you have a team without a single senior," Collvins said. "The first reaction for most people would be, 'You have a team of inexperienced players.' But, for the most part, a lot of these kids have played since their freshman year on varsity.
"Obviously, there were growing pains. Last year, my juniors were sophomores and my sophomores were freshmen, and we got into the playoffs as a fourth seed," he added. "I think just having that experience and maturing from it is the main reason why we've been successful this year."
The road to top seed wasn't a breeze for Texas High, though. Not only did the Lady Tigers play a solid schedule throughout the season, they also had to play a prolific Sulphur Springs squad three times, two of which they won—a 31-point drub back in January and Friday night's classic in Paris that decided seeding.
The Lady Tigers' postseason journey starts against Highland Park, which will represent District 15-5A as a four seed. Sophomore Mary Warriner Kemp leads the Lady Scots on the season with 12 points and five rebounds a game. Tipoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, and will be broadcast on the radio on KTXK 91.5.
"Highland Park is a very disciplined team on both ends of the floor," Collvins said. "They do a great job moving in their zone defense and have a couple of players that can shoot the ball on the perimeter, and have a solid post player inside. It should be a contrast in styles when we play."
Tonight's winner will go on to play the victor of the Liberty-McKinney North game.
Starting for the Lady Tigers are juniors Kiasyia Morrison, Vicki Willis, Antonia Porter, Mia Wilson and Maranda Miller.
Juniors Nia Wilson, Brittany Kyle, Unique McBride and Amiya Rone and sophomores Kerrighan Dunn, Kiya Mitchell and Sadeya Finley will come off the bench for Texas High.
THS enters tonight winning eight of its last nine games, including a five-game streak.
"The one thing our kids haven't done this year is quit," Collvins said. "I think they believe they can win and expect to win. When you have that combination, I think you can compete with most teams."