Lady Tigers tip off league slate with new attitude
But come Friday, when they step on the floor at Navasota to tip off District 23-3A play, veteran Rockdale coach Liz Galloway-McQuitter knows that shining mark means nothing.
“I have put our season in perspective so far and I am happy for the girls and the program,” said McQuitter, in her fifth season here. “Of course we can look back and honestly say that we could have, should have, but the fact is, we are 13-7 and I am proud of that up to this point. We had a great non- district season.
“Now, we have to turn our attention to district and this is the true meaning of new season, new reason.”
The 13 victories registered is the most by a Rockdale squad since Janet Havelka’s team went 15-13 in 2006.
District 23-3A has two teams currently ranked in the top 25 in the TABC poll, with Giddings sitting at No. 13 with a 16-3 mark and Navasota at No. 23 at 12-5.
The district had three teams in the poll at one point when the Lady Tigers surged to No. 22 two weeks ago.
Giddings is the defending league champion and features the best player in the league in 5-foot-10 senior Kayla Winkfield who was the district MVP last season and is averaging over 20 points a game this season.
Navasota is a perennial playoff team and knocked off Giddings in the regional quarterfinals last season.
Rockdale counters with improved team play led by freshman guard Velma Mitchell who has energized the program.
The 5-foot-8 Mitchell is averaging 17.7 points a game and can score from anywhere on the floor when she’s not setting up her teammates for a shot.
She also leads the team in rebounds (5.6) and steals (3.5).
In Rockdale’s 42-32 win over host Cameron in the Cameron Chamber of Commerce Christmas Classic, Mitchell—on the strength of a half dozen treys— pumped in a season-high 27 points, nearly outscoring the Lady Yoemen by herself.
The six three-pointers were just one shy of the school record of seven set by Casey Johnston in 1994.
Mitchell’s scoring punch has allowed Rockdale to increase its scoring average from 30.1 a game last year to 42.4 this season.
The Lady Tigers have a nice mixture of experience in the lineup, along with the rookie Mitchell, there’s sophomore post Shelby Evans and junior combination guard Visha Henderson.
Seniors Victoria Drake (44 steals) and Jill Young (4.3 rebounds) provide leadership and toughness, especially on defense and on the boards.
The 6-foot Evans also used the Cameron Tournament as a platform for her best game of the year, with a 15-point, fiverebound, four-block and twosteal performance in a win over Rogers.
In a distr ict that features height (Winkfield is 5-10, Smithville’s Madison Hannusch is 6-1, Navasota’s Q’Anteria Robertson and LaGrange’s Breanna Horner are both 5-11), the memories of an outing like that could come in handy.
Of the six teams in the league, Rockdale has the least playoff experience, having not made an appearance since 2005.
“I think the girls have to continue to believe and see the possibilities,” McQuitter said. “We are in unfamiliar territory for them. Not for the program in the past, but for our current kids in basketball.”
Winning games goes a long way in changing attitudes.
“If we can change the psyche and then the culture, maybe we can get back to the days when it was expected,” said McQuitter.
“ I believe so much in this team..... I have to get them to believe so much in themselves. I believe we can be in the mix in district and that is what we are aiming for and the wins will take care of themselves.”
The Lady Tigers went 2-2 in the Cameron Chamber of Commerce Holiday Classic, good enough for fourth place in the gold bracket.
In the opener, Rockdale ran roughshod over Rosebud-Lott 62-18 as Mitchell str uck for 22 points, with nine rebounds and four of the Lady Tigers’ 19 steals.
Evans chipped in 13 points and nine boards, leading the Lady Tigers’ dominance inside with 30 points in the paint.
Playing in front of a hostile crowd, Rockdale jumped out to an early lead and then held on for a 42-32 victory over host Cameron.
Mitchell had the aforementioned 27 points, including six three-pointers.
After opening the tournament with a pair of wins, the Lady Tigers suffered two defeats, the first to West 33-20 as they suffered mightily from the field, shooting just 26 percent.
They also sank just one free throw.
Mitchell was limited to seven points to lead Rockdale.
The Lady Tigers then closed out the tournament with a 42-37 loss to Rogers in which the game was knotted 29-all heading into the final period.
Despite the loss, Evans turned in her best game with 15 points, five rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
Mitchell was held to nine with seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
LADY TIGER SEASON STATS