— By GREG WEBB
BROCK — Chance Westmoreland had quite an act to follow when he first stepped into the girls’ head basketball coaching shoes in 2011. His promotion from assistant came on the heels of three consecutive Brock Class 2A girls basketball titles.
This weekend, the Lady Eagles will begin another adventure in Austin, in hopes of adding two more wins to the business end of their 34-2 season record. If successful in hoisting the championship trophy, Westmoreland and his Brock cagers will have doubled the consecutive titles — to six.
“It’s been a great run,” Westmoreland said. “There has been some stress, of course, but it’s been neat to be a part [of the success] and to keep it going.
“We would certainly like to continue [the streak].”
Westmoreland is not surprised his varsity squad is returning to the UIL state tourney, considering the work ethic of his team.
“This group is probably the hardest-working one I have ever had,” he said. “When we came back from Austin last year, on that following Monday these girls were ready to go to work.
“After seeing how hard they worked this summer, I really felt like the only team that could beat us would be us.”
A relatively young squad (forward Taylor Fulmer is its lone senior), Westmoreland attributes much of the success to the collective effort.
“This group is the definitive ‘team,’” the coach said. “They have bought in to our system and have all accepted their roles. It’s hard to play all nine players, but we’ve told them when they get in the game, play three or four minutes as hard as you can and then we’ll get you some rest.
“You look at a player like Lexie (Ducat). For another team, she would probably play 30 minutes a game, but she is getting about 25 minutes. Bailey (Ivey) and Rachel (Williams) are playing about 20 to 22 minutes.
“It’s awesome how every one on this ‘team,’ in every sense of the word, has bought in like they have. They love and care for each other and get along great on and off the court. It’s been so much fun coaching this group of girls.”
The playoff path has been contentious, and slow starts have come to bear in some. Westmoreland thinks part of the reason has been self-imposed.
“These girls were so committed to get back to the state tournament, I think that was some of the reason we went into some playoff games being a little nervous,” he said. “Now that they’ve made it there, I’m hoping that pressure is off of them and they can just play. If we can get off to a good start, I feel like we can beat almost anyone.
“We’re versatile, athletic and we’re a deep team. And we’ve never been in a game where I had to tell them to play hard.”
The scouting report on Franklin, Brock’s opponent in Friday’s semifinal touts the Lady Lions as a very explosive offensive team, averaging 80 points a game. They shoot a lot of three-pointers (more than 40 per game), and they like a fast pace.
“We need to control the pace in this game,” Westmoreland said. “They score a lot of points, but they give up a lot of points, too. We’ll need to handle their pressure and get the ball inside. I think we’re also playing our best defense and I’m hoping that will be in our favor.”
The other Class 2A semifinal features the Halletsville Lady Brahmas facing Wall’s Lady Hawks, who will play in Friday’s first contest (8:30 a.m.) at the Frank Irwin Center, located on the University of Texas campus. Brock vs. Franklin follows at 10 a.m.
The 2A final is set for Saturday, with tipoff at 1:30 p.m.
Westmoreland has become familiar with the “routine” of the state tournament, and has enjoyed the contrast of the teams he has led to Austin, and the help he has had getting there.
“As a coach, this is special because its our third time to go to state, and all three teams have been very different,” he said. “On this team, eight of our nine girls have been “brought up” at Brock, going to school here since the third grade. We have some common denominators, like Lexie and Taylor (Fulmer), but it’s neat that I’ve been able to take three very different teams to the state tournament.
“I also have a very good coaching staff. Jason Morales has been great. You look at all accomplished head coaches and they have somebody ‘behind the scenes’ that do so much for the team. Jason has been that for us.”