The Lady Tigers have yet to be able to snap a winless streak that has now carried over from the last calendar year.
However, it is not due to a lack of effort as the team is improving and nevertheless gaining experience for the years to come.
But the offense is getting work, shooters are starting to find their rhythms and the ball is also getting worked inside to the post to feed senior Diari Dabney which is exactly what head coach Anthony Branch needs from her.
She was indeed relied upon in the Christmas tournament over break, scoring 34 points and pulling down 37 rebounds in three of those games.
None were more impactful than her 12-point, six-rebound performance in the first matchup with Giddings that helped the Lady Tigers stay in the game.
Both Zoee Jeffrey and Evelyn Harrington supplemented Dabney’s points with eight-point games of their own with Jeffrey also leading the team with 13 rebounds.
However, their efforts would not be quite enough and the Buffaloes from Giddings walked away with a 38-36 win.
That was followed by a slightly less-contested game which still saw a double-digit point performance from a player in black and gold.
This time, it was Jeffrey who led the scoring department with 10 and she also added a trio of assists while Dabney grabbed 10 boards and came just shy of recording a double-double and finished the game with eight points.
Brylie Bond was right behind her with seven points, six of which came from down low in the paint which might not be the most likely spot you’d guess the shortest person on the roster would be.
Those showings carried into a meeting with Schulenburg where Dabney reached double figures in two categories.
She scored 14 points and 11 rebounds to secure that double-double and led the team in both disciplines with Bond the next closest scoring eight points and rebounding four respectively.
After that, it was back to the grind of the district schedule with a hosting of Wharton’s Lady Tigers on the second day of the new year.
It started out well for Sealy, who ended the first quarter with a 13-5 advantage, getting points from four different scorers.
To open the second frame, the host Lady Tigers scored seven straight points, capitalized by a three-pointer from Jeffrey to force a timeout from the Wharton bench with just over five minutes left in the first half.
Bond followed that up with a three of her own to push to the score to 23-5, however it did not stay that way for long.
The visiting Lady Tigers grabbed a quick six points before Sealy hit another shot only to follow that up with a five-point run to close the half, making the score 27-16 in favor of the home team.
Going into the halftime-break, Branch was pleased to see the shots falling as the ball was moving to where it was supposed to be going.
“We took care of the basketball, moved the basketball well to get good shots, we didn’t turn the ball over and made those shots,” Branch said. “That’s what we have to do every time.”
But that play was not kept up in the second half and Wharton worked its way back with a 9-0 run to start the third frame which helped close the gap to 35-33 with only a singular quarter left to play.
Soon enough, it was a tie game at 37 with 5:10 showing left to play and the visiting Lady Tigers ended up with more points on their side of the scoreboard by the end of it, managing a 53-43 final score.
Branch, unfortunately, has seen plenty of this so far in this year alone.
“This has been the m.o. all year,” he said. “We’ve had games won, we were up almost 20 points and the game was ours but we let them come back because we were reaching and fouling and turning over the ball … We can’t turn the ball over at half court, it’s going to be an easy layup.”
That game was followed up with a trip to El Campo to finish out the week to play against one of the top teams so far in the district, but also a team that had previously been involved in a skirmish with another team.
The Lady Ricebirds traveled to Royal on the second day of the year but the game was stopped in the third quarter due to a fight breaking out between the teams where fans eventually spilled over and added to the commotion.
A kick to the face of an El Campo player forced retaliation from said player and Royal teammates stepped in for support as did Royal fans.
The game was suspended and the boys’ game that was supposed to follow was postponed until the next day where a heavy police presence was on hand to also take in the game.
El Campo Athletic Director, Wayne Condra confirmed the boys’ game went off without a hitch and that the UIL is still involved in an investigation before handing out penalties to both sides.
Coach Branch and the Lady Tigers served as the next team the Lady Ricebirds faced after the altercation, but Branch noted he was more concerned about his team’s play than the possibility of another altercation from the other team.
“I’m going to be more concerned about us, regardless of who we are playing against,” Branch said prior to the game. “We’re prepared for the whole team to play and we’ll adjust accordingly if they’re not.”
He knew #20 was the one he had to limit points from being scored from and although he felt they did a decent job at that, another Lady Ricebird stepped up and helped take a 47-34 decision for the top team in District 25.
It was another game where Dabney was the bright spot, registering a 44.4% field-goal shooting percentage, registering another double-double with 11 points and 19 rebounds.