They stumbled out of the gate, but the Lady Jaguars furious finish almost pulled them into a second straight playoff appearance.
A dreary 3-8 start was followed by a scorching 9-3 finish. Not bad for a squad of 12 freshmen, said coach Darnell Cherry, who has made no secret of the fact that he cannot wait until next year.
“We had high expectations for us this year because last year Southwestern tied for conference and we wanted to keep that and win conference this year,” said freshman point guard Gabby Robledo. “We just came up short.”
SWC missed the playoffs despite an 8-2 conference record.
“We did start slow, and we didn’t have team chemistry and weren’t quite there yet,” said Robledo. “After our last tournament we came together and started to pick it up. Practice got harder, we worked on the things we needed to work on, and we executed what coach put us into practice and we did it.”
Freshman point guard Chloe Cook said she felt Cherry’s trust in his players.
“He was the greatest coach that I’ve had throughout my basketball career and definitely pushed us like never before,” said Cook. “He knew what to say at the right time and brought our team together as a family.”
Cherry said the bonding was critical.
“We played with chemistry and it’s growing stronger,” he said. “We began to trust each other more and played as a team and came together.”
“We’re gonna come out stronger and we ended the season good,” she said. “We played together and if we keep that were gonna come back ready to play and get more players to help us out which gives us a good chance to win conference.”
Forward Danielle Wilson said the early season was bewildering.
“In the beginning of the year I didn’t know anyone’s name,” she said. “By the last practice we were so close we would hang out almost every weekend and we were a family rather than a basketball team.”
Watch out, Wilson warned.