Lady Cardinals use stifling defense to frustrate opponents


SHINER — There was no doubt who the victor would be early on. Shiner St. Paul allowed just five points in the first quarter, eight points in the half, using their full-court press and in-your-face defense to frustrate the visiting Bulverde Bracken Christian Warriors last Friday, Jan. 18. The Lady Cardinals would end the game with a 58-23 victory to open district play. Despite the win, head coach Dana Beal-Sestak pointed out some aspects of the game that could be improved on.

“I think we did a pretty good job of moving the ball on offense in the first quarter,” she noted. “Defensively we didn’t do some of the things we wanted to do with our press and we just got to get better at doing those little things. We made a few adjustments but when we had to come out of the press it’s kind of hard to work on the things you need to fix.”

With a lead like theirs, the Lady Cardinals backed off the press in the second half, hence not being able to “work on the things” Beal-Sestak made mention of.

Offensively, the team shot 44 percent from the field, with Grace Irvin leading in scoring with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. However, three other Lady Cardinals scored eight points — Gracey Novosad, Rebecca Wagner and Trinity Garza — and of the 13 players who stepped on the court to play, 12 of them scored a basket. The other came away with an assist in the game.

“The young guys came in and did a pretty good job of moving the ball as well and finding the opening man, sharing the ball,” Beal-Sestak said. “I really like seeing that a lot. Every group that went in did a nice job of finding their open teammate and giving them the ball, that way we can make nice, easy plays under the basket.”

The rotation is to be expected with a team as deep as St. Paul’s. The depth was needed last Friday, as this was the first game the Lady Cardinals experienced being in foul trouble, according to the head coach.

“I was glad that they called the game the way that they called it because for most of the year they just let us do pretty much whatever we want to on defense,” Beal-Sestak admitted. “We have some really good defensive players and we have some players sometimes that need to learn how to move their feet and play good defense. So, this is a good lesson tonight for them to realize that just because you can get away with it sometimes, doesn’t mean you should. We need to play solid, disciple defense.”

St. Paul went on to defeat Victoria Faith Academy 41-23 on Tuesday to move to 2-0 in TAPPS District 5-2A. The district is a small one, just four teams, so the Lady Cardinals need to use this short period before the postseason to sharpen their tools to become a playoff-ready team. Currently ranked second in all of TAPPS 2A, behind only Lubbock Southcrest Christian (last year’s state champion) according to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches weekly state polls, the Lady Cardinals have expectations of getting back to the state game.

But the Beal-Sestak doesn’t look at the rankings.

“We can’t think that we’re good enough,” she said. “We never address it like that, we talk about the little things in practice, if we don’t do the little things right then we have some consequences, that’s just the way we play, that’s what we do, that’s how we try to sharpen our skills, we try to make each other better and the seniors have done a really good job of encouraging the young kids to push them and try to make each other better. That’s what it all comes down to. Rankings go out the window. District just started. We’re in a new season, we work in practices, parts of our practice we look at them as if this were a game, would we have won or lost, and then we have to evaluate that in the middle of practice and we can’t lose today because that means we lose a game.”

St. Paul travels to take on San Antonio St. Gerard on Friday before hosting Austin Royals on Tuesday for a non-district game.