By JULIAN LUCAS, JHAZMINE LASSITER and ZE’MIRAH HARRIS
“Nothing to lose. Everything to gain.”
That’s what varsity women’s basketball coach Latina Bullock-Thomas told us is her message to her players as the young team continues to ride a winning streak that began a few weeks ago.
Going into tonight’s home game against Midway, the Lady Cougars are ranked third in their conference and are eyeing a playoff berth that seemed unlikely after Christmas break. So the Pride sat down with Coach Bullock-Thomas to talk to her about how she feels after her team fought through adversity to reel off five straight wins.
She said she felt “great” and added, “it’s something that I’ve known that they could’ve been doing all along.”
“We’re just kind of doing something different in the second half of this season that’s kind of built their confidence, and I think that has a lot to do with it,” she said. “And they’re playing a lot more like a team.”
So what is that “something different”?
“I feel like they have really started depending on each other and trusting one another off and on the court, which makes the big difference between how they react to each other,” Coach Bullock said.
Her players, including freshman three-point specialist Victoria Royal, agree.
“From the beginning of the season, we didn’t really have any chemistry with one another, which kind of hurt us,” she said. “But right now, we’ve gotten to a point where we know how to move and position ourselves according to when we’re off and on the court while getting to know everyone.”
We also had a chance to speak to other team leaders about the things that they have experienced throughout these last five games.
We asked defensive specialist Shayla Greene what motivates her the most to play so hard and to better herself while on the court, and she talked about losing her father recently.
“The fact that I’ve lost my dad recently is really pushing me and helping me better myself on the court,” she said.
And Aleesha Boyette told the Pride about how she feels about how her team has come together as a unit.
“We came together, we play together, we worked together, and I feel that we’ve improved a lot,” she said, adding that she is “very proud of my teammates and all that we’ve accomplished during the season.”
Leading scorer T’ziah Kelly also feels like her teammates have “come a long way.”
“We’re finally getting used to each other and play together as one team, and with my coach’s motivation, I play harder and harder each game,” she said.
So what will happen tonight against Midway? It’s anyone’s guess. But the numbers don’t lie. This Lady Cougars team has a record of 10-10, but the wins and losses don’t tell the whole tale. They have only lost two games by double-digits and in nearly every contest, the team is in it until the final buzzer.
Whatever happens tonight — and in the playoffs, if the team makes it — this season will be a block to build on, given how much young talent is on the roster. Just don’t tell Coach Bullock-Thomas to start looking toward next year. She still believes something special could happen in the coming weeks.
“I firmly believe that even with the team being young this year, you know I never doubted anything they were capable of doing. I just wish that they were able to see it from the beginning and not so late in the season,” Coach Bullock said. “But all that means is that the achievements they have accomplished while being so young is going to be greater than anything else in the world. And even though many people thought that we were going to come in last place in this new conference, it all changes knowing that we are currently third place. Along with this winning streak that were on, I’m just hoping that the girls can actually really understand the dept of determination that they will need to have in order for us to continue to win in the future.”