Dobie out to repeat district title
Dobie lost its best player, Shadae Shepherd, last November, but it didn't loss its heart — or its desire to be a champion.
The Lady Longhorns went on to win their first 12 games in District 22-5A play and the district championship, their first under fourth-year coach Shane Brown, who couldn't have been more proud.
"It was a great team effort last year," Brown said. "We lost statistically our best player early in the season and our kids did a great job of rallying around each other and ended up having a great run."
The lone district stumble was against Deer Park - Brown's preseason district favorite this season - in the second to last game, but Dobie rebounded to win its next two, including a bi-district playoff game.
"That loss, if nothing else, kind of helped us because as we got to win 10, win 11, win 12, all of sudden you start to tighten up a little bit, you start thinking about the streak rather than what the long-term goal is, and that's surviving and advancing in the playoffs," Brown said.
The season ended in the area playoffs, with a 61-44 loss to Clear Lake, which good have been worse considering how rough the start was for the Lady 'Horns, who fell behind 21-1 in the first quarter.
That group finished 24-12 overall and saw five players graduate, including key starters point guard Derlesha Thomas, post Ashley Johnson and wing Tavaceia Davis, last season's district MVP.
"For all that those kids did for us on the court, not having a presence like Nicole Bernstein is probably the biggest loss," Brown said. "She was an unsung hero to our success, just because of the leadership she provided and her work ethic."
Brown looks for one of two starters back to help fill that role: junior shooting guard Jazmin Guerrero and athletic junior guard/forward Shanequa Gaston, who was the 22-5A newcomer of the year.
Guerrero's a sharp shooter looking to expand her offensive game while also seeing time at the point, and Gaston will be called up more to face up from the perimeter, where she can create and attack.
"Instead of being one of those people who's a secondary option, (Gaston's) going to end up being a primary option for us, so she's got to be able to step up to that challenge, and I think she will," Brown said.
"She's gifted enough, no question."
There's no question Brown's high on senior Chelsea Rodriguez, who he plans to have run the offense.
Rodriguez was a backup point gaurd last season who hit a half-court shot to knock off a tough Pasadena Memorial team.
"This will be my 18th year of coaching, and I haven't seen anybody who I ever coached or been a part of - and that's Division I all the way down - be able to distribute the ball and see the floor as well as this girl," Brown said.
Other key returners include senor wing Derika Thomas, who's a good defender, and senior post Darien Price, who will split time inside with JV call-ups senior Adugo Aaron and Melissa Knight.
Junior guard Danielle Crawford is another newcomer who, along with Knight, will be counted on to provide depth, something last year's team had in spades.
"That's really going to be the key for us - are we going to be able to have some depth?" Brown said.
Dobie's district is smaller this year, with realignment nixing La Porte and Pearland, but Browns sees plenty of competition left. He says South Houston and Sam Rayburn will be much-improved.
The Lady Longhorns open practice Wednesday, Oct. 20, and they'll focus on defensive preparation early, a point of emphasis under Brown. They'll also have some offensive tweaking to do.
The season opener is Nov. 8 against Friendswood.
"This is a team that has a lot of potential to do something really special and make a great run in district and hopefully get deep in the playoffs," Brown said. "There's no question the talent is there.
"The question is, going into it, is the leadership going to be there?"
Local Advertising by PaperG