Sometimes, the best way for a young basketball team find out where it needs to go is to run flush into a squad that’s already been there.
So it was for younger-than-young DeSoto Central Friday. The Jaguars had a short, highly instructive 32-minute tutorial administered by unbeaten Houston, 58-42, in the Lynx Classic at Lausanne.
"It’s just what we needed," said second-year coach Paul Hayden, whose team brought a deceptive 9-3 record into the game. "We’d played a lot of small schools, and were able to beat them with our speed. Today we ran into a team that’s experienced, and has size, which we don’t have. They were also quick enough to give our guards problems."
The Jags, 13-12 a year ago, start four underclassmen along with senior center Dakayla Baird.
Freshman forward Imani Johnson, younger sister of DC boys team star Ricky Johnson, showed some of her promise with eight points. But this team will ride on the diminutive shoulders of sophomore guards Rodneysha Martin and Stormy Green.
Martin led all scorers with 16 points, nine in the third quarter when the Jaguars cut a 49-23 deficit to 49-37 on Martin’s trey early in the final quarter.
"We’ve got to keep trusting each other and staying together as a team while we learn," Martin said.
Green added 12 points on four 3-pointers, two in the third period. But the afternoon was also laden with turnovers into the teeth of the Houston press. Turnovers that the Mustangs turned into easy layups.
When the Jaguars were able to get back, Houston patiently worked their offense into the paint and waiting mismatches.
"Teams usually don’t stay long in the press against us because we’ve been able to beat it pretty well," Hayden said. "And we don’t have size, and they were able to use that on us."
The Mustangs, with a junior-laden lineup that has already logged plenty of minutes in leaner times, took their 10th straight win by committee. Jaida Roper, a talented freshman forward, had 11 points, while Alise Parker and long-range shooter Julianne Shiles each had 10, Aysha Harris eight and 6-1 center Cheridan Burroughs seven.
"We’ve had a lot of games like that this season," said Chad Becker, who took over as head coach this year.
"Basically this is a group that had to play as freshmen and sophomores, and now they’re juniors with some maturity," said Becker of the Mustangs, who were 12-14 a year ago and 4-10 in a tough District 15-AAA.
Team leader Harris said the trick now "is to not get impressed or distracted by the fact we are 10-0. We’ve got a lot of things we still have to work on."
While Roper has brought obvious talent to the mix in her rookie season she also knows her main job "is to get the ball inside. We’ve got a lot of players who can score in there."