By GREG WEBB
ALEDO — Just by happenstance, or some kind of fate to make the final stretch more interesting, the Aledo Ladycats’ final four District 7-4A basketball matches queue up to present a potentially-more challenging contest with each game. On the least-challenging end of the spectrum, Western Hills filled that bill on Friday, as Aledo hammered the Lady Cougars, 102-17.
“Southwest is going to be tougher when we play them at their place on Monday,” said Aledo head coach Rusty Johnson, “because they are battling for a playoff spot.
“And then we catch Granbury and then Trimble Tech again right before the playoffs.”
Southwest, due up on Monday, is trying to grab a four-seed to make postseason play. The Granbury Lady Pirates, who beat Southwest on Friday and lost to Aledo by just six points in their initial district meeting, still has eyes on a run to at least share the district crown.
Fort Worth’s Trimble Tech handed Aledo its first district loss in three years and will attempt to repeat the feat in the district finale against the Ladycats, set for Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Aledo can simplify the equation, for themselves anyway, by winning out to grab the top seed and win the district title outright.
“[Preparing for this final run] is where we have been headed for as a team,” Johnson said. “We’ve been trying to make our practices more competitive.
“That’s been our primary goal because these final three games are going to be a challenge.”
If the rout over Western Hills is any indication, the Ladycats may well be peaking at the right time, realizing each match is potentially going to be tougher than the one before.
“We’ve had a great week of practice,” Johnson said. “We wanted to take [that intensity] into this game tonight, and I think we did that.”
After a relatively slow start, though leading by 10 points at the end of the opening period, the Aledo offense exploded for 41 in the second stanza. Applying a full-court press, most of the points were drained as a direct result of the steals made and turnovers created by the Ladycats defense.
Madison Mittie led the way for the Ladycats, finishing the night with 17 points, but there were 11 Aledo players who got into the score book. Mallory Powell, Alyssa Dry and Bronte Frank also reached double digits, with 15, 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Ladycats improved to 10-1 with the lop-sided victory.
The Aledo bench naturally received plenty of minutes during the course of the game. The starters made appearances early in the quarters, but the substitutions began early and often. Johnson is thankful for the opportunity to trot substitutions onto the court, giving them the experience they may need in the coming weeks and into the postseason, which will require effective playing time in high-pressure contests.
“I told the girls in the locker room that I could not be more proud of how they handled themselves, and just how much better [the girls off the bench] have gotten,” he said. “Having a very deep team has helped us, being able to put our best against our best in practice and really get after each other.
“I think it has helped of late, and will continue to help us light that competitive fire, all for one goal — to prepare us for the games coming up and into the postseason, as well.
Due to the predominately Fort Worth-based teams in the district, who share a couple of the FWISD gymnasiums, playing on a Friday night, or even a Tuesday night, has been the exception rather than the rule.
“Yeah, it has really been something different this year, hasn’t it?” Johnson said laughing, when asked how nice it was to play on a Friday. “With our [boys and girls] teams split now on the schedule, it’s been tough on our school and harder on our support on road games.
“This is my fourth year as the girls’ head coach and our community and school support has been great. And of course, we still want our fans with us, but it has made it tougher for them when one team is playing at home and the other is away. But our girls have handled real well. And I think we have good things in store for the rest of this year.”
After Southwest, a match at the Billingsley Field House in Fort Worth on Monday, the Ladycats return home on Friday for Senior Night, as well as another treat for the team and the fans. With a 6 p.m. start for the AHS girls, the night will feature a varsity double-header, with the Bearcats taking the court in the night cap. The Aledo boys are slated for a 7:30 p.m. start.