GONZALES — After overcoming a slow start in the first quarter, the Gonzales Lady Apaches were able to use their size and quickness to overwhelm the visiting Nixon-Smiley Lady Mustangs, beating them 57-32 in a matchup between two Gonzales County schools.
The Lady Apaches changed up their rotation, with Gonzales head coach Lance Butler opting to give more playing time to most of the players on the team, instead of focusing on a six or seven-team rotation.
Midway through quarters, Butler subbed in an entire group of five, making sure that 10 different players got some real-game experience Tuesday night.
“The more experience we get everybody now, at some point in the time in the playoffs you can have an injury, you can have foul trouble, everybody is going to be counted on and expected to produce,” he explained. “Regardless of who’s on the floor, we’re expecting them to step up. Next man up at all times.”
Both groups played well, taking advantage of their height and speed on both ends of the court.
“Like coach always says, when we get further into the playoff round, everyone is going to need to play, everyone is going to need to show up,” Gonzales’ Devon Williams added. “Each time everyone gets into different groups, it’s just more practice, more experience for coming out and handling the pressure.”
Williams finished the night with 11 points.
For the Lady Mustangs, head coach Doug Boatright believed his team had a few first-half jitters that they needed to get over.
“I knew [Gonzales’] size coming in and I think our girls were shell shocked in the first half with the size, with their speed,” he said. “Coach Butler has got a good team over here. I would anticipate them going pretty far in the playoffs. Once we got over the shell shocked and realized, hey we can play a little bit, let’s settle down, do what we’ve been doing.”
But after going down 36-8 in the first half, the Lady Mustangs were able to stay with Gonzales throughout the game, keeping pace with the Lady Apaches’ scoring.
“The main goal I had is, I want the girls to compete for four quarters,” Boatright said. “For four quarters get after it. At the end of that fourth quarter, if you competed and you left everything out there? Win, lose or draw, that’s all I can ask for. That was our goal coming in and I think we competed for two and a half, and we needed to compete for four. I think that’s one of our big shortfalls tonight.”
Meanwhile, Butler believed Tuesday was the first game of the year where the team played “all 32 minutes.”
“We ride a roller coaster every game in intensity and execution,” Butler said. “Tonight was the game where we executed the best and brought energy through all 32 minutes. Yes, [Nixon-Smiley] hit a couple of shots when we switched up the defenses, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. We’ve been trying to play a complete game and this was our first complete game of the year.”
“I think we played a hard game, even though we switched up the starters and [played with] different groups,” Gonzales’ Madison Pirkle said. “We all did our part and played well.”
“We have a lot of leaders on our team,” Pirkle added. “Even if you have different people, they’re not going to be afraid to tell you what to do. I think we’re good with the groups that we can put together.”
Even with the win, the Lady Apaches remain focused on their ultimate goal, which is to get to the playoffs and have a deep run. Staying focused is just one of a few things the team believes they need to improve.
“[We need to] have control of the ball game, stay focused, see what is on the court,” Gonzales’ “Chu Chu” McCarty said, in reference to any turnovers from Tuesday night.
“Value the basketball and communication, that’s it,” Butler added. “Value the ball, talk. Two keys rest of the year.”
For Nixon-Smiley, the tough matchup against Gonzales is just one example of the schedule Boatright set up for the Lady Mustangs.
“Our preseason schedule is pretty tough,” Boatright explained. “Every team in our preseason schedule made the playoffs last year. A couple of teams actually made some deep runs in the playoffs. That’s our goal. We want to be there come late February, we want to be playing past Valentine’s Day, we want to be playing into March. That’s one of our goals, you got to beat the good teams to get there. Playing the tough teams in preseason has definitely helped us out.”
The Lady Apaches travel to Flatonia for a tournament this weekend before traveling to Universal City to take on Randolph on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
The Lady Mustangs will be competing in the Poteet tournament this weekend before hosting Marion on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 6:15 p.m.