After a number of close calls during head coach Heather Hohertz’s tenure as head coach, the Brownwood Lady Lions are finally heading into the postseason with a district championship to their credit.
Making their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, the No. 23 Lady Lions (22-6), co-champions of District 8-3A, face District 7-3A fourth seed Venus at 7 p.m. Monday in Glen Rose in Region I-3A bi-district playoff action.
“It feels very rewarding,” said Lady Lion senior Alyson Finnigan of capturing the first district championship in program history. “It’s a huge blessing for everyone. Everyone feels really accomplished, successful and blessed.”
Added sophomore Trejouir Wilson, “We’ve been working really hard all year trying to prove to our fans and everyone else that we deserve to be district champions. We finally got it, so it’s a relief and it feels good.”
The Lady Lions are known for their trademark 2-3 matchup zone defense, which Hohertz brought to the Brownwood program from her playing days at Howard Payne. Defense has been the catalyst for success since Hohertz took over, but an improved team chemistry this year is what the Lady Lions feel helped pushed them over the top.
“This year we feel more like a team,” said senior Keeta Vaccaro, last year’s District 8-3A MVP. “Everyone likes each other and we play like it. Everyone loves the sport and we enjoy it. This feels awesome because we’ve been working hard for this, we’ve done everything right and I think we deserve this.”
Defensively, the Lady Lions are yielding 33 points per game on average and recording 16 steals per outing, which sets up the transition games that fuels the Brownwood offensive attack.
“Coach Hohertz really pushes us on defense,” Vaccaro said. “Everyone is moving, we’re all pretty quick, so it’s easier for us to get going on defense.”
Added Wilson, “There’s a whole lot communication going on. If we don’t talk in that defense, we won’t be successful.”
On the offensive end, the Lady Lions are averaging 51 points per game for the season, but have rang up 70 and 88 points in their last two outings. An explosive offense, coupled with a stifling defense, could make the Lady Lions one of the favorites from Region I to reach Austin and the state tournament.
“Our offense has really picked it up,” Finnigan said. “We were struggling at the beginning of year, but we’ve been hitting a lot of shots and we’re being smart with the ball. We’re trying to limit our turnovers, and a lot of people have stepped up on the offensive end.”
Added Wilson, “We can win games with our defense, but when we have our offense to help us out, that gives us a big edge.”
If the Lady Lions are able to get past Venus, a likely second-round date with Wichita Falls Hirschi awaits. A win there, and the Lady Lions could earn a possible rematch with Stephenville in the third round and attempt to avenge one of only six losses.
Brownwood has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs, but in a season that featured the first district title in program history, the Lady Lions have put no ceiling on their postseason goals.
“I want to go all the way and the whole team does, too,” Vaccaro said. “I think we can.”
Added Wilson, “The sky’s the limit. As along as we stick together and keep pushing, we can go to state.”