By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
The T.C. Williams girls basketball team’s winning streak in Patriot Conference play showed no signs of slowing Tuesday with a comfortable 72-33 win against South County.
Now holding a 17-1 overall record and a 11-0 clip in their conference, the Lady Titans are riding high with just three games left in the regular season. They return to action Friday at West Springfield.
And while the scoreboard reflected a comfortable win for T.C. on its home court, head coach Kesha Walton said she still expected more from her team, especially in a first half that ended with the Lady Titans ahead 36-16.
“Overall, I think it was OK,” Walton said. “Just OK in the fact that we pride ourselves on holding teams to 10 points
or less a quarter. A couple of times, I don’t think they really got over 10, but I have higher expectations. I think we had too many unforced turnovers.
“So yes, we won by a large margin, but I still have high expectations for our team. We set goals every game, and a couple of them we did not achieve. But I’m happy we won, I’m not taking the win away.”
Walton said after a frank conversation in the locker room at halftime, things improved for the Lady Titans. Senior forward Bhrandi Crenshaw set the tone as she nonchalantly blocked South County’s first in-bounds pass of the third quarter back over the sideline.
It was another victory built on a strong defense, with the Stallions having to fend off an aggressive high press when in- bounding the ball from under their own hoop. That energetic defense helped spark a fast- paced offense, and the Lady Titans surged into the lead and cruised to victory.
“A lot of the teams in our conference play a slow game and pack it in with the zone [defense],” said sophomore point guard Trinity Palacio, who led T.C. with 21 points. “We just tried to push the ball ahead to get easy lay-ups on fast breaks.”
Crenshaw added 16 points for the Lady Titans. Freshman guard Gabriella San Di- ego scored 15 points for South County, which fell to 6-13 over- all this season. And despite the win, Walton said she always demands more from her players, who remain the team to beat in the Patriot Conference.
“I just have higher expectations for our team, looking down the road and the bigger picture,” she said. “We’re going to play some even tougher teams coming up, and I look at details. For us, it doesn’t matter who we play. I don’t look at the score to be honest, I look at certain things that we look to achieve, and if we’re not achieving them I’m upset. The score doesn’t matter to me.”
For the players, having coaches that demand excellence is helpful, especially in a long regular season that could stretch even longer with postseason play.
“It gives you a lot of motivation, and makes you want to work harder,” Palacio said. “She helps us strive to be our best.”
Walton said the team’s first priority is to win its three remaining regular-season games, before looking ahead to postseason play in the Patriot Conference and a possible berth in the Virginia High School League’s state tournament. It is important to not look too far ahead, especially as the teams below them jockey for position, Walton said.
“To be honest, our thing to- night was the quest to four,” she said. “That means we had four games left, and we wanted to finish these last four with wins. For us, yes the bigger picture is there. But now our goal is to win the last three. We want to finish these three games 3-0, so that’s what we’ve been doing. We won this game, then focus on Friday’s game. Ours is one game at a time, then everything else will take care of itself.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Palacio added. “You don’t want to lose that one game. So we’ve just got to stay focused on the rest of the regular season.”
Last season, the Lady Titans triumphed in the Patriot Conference tournament but lost to Fairfax in the quarterfinals of the VHSL 6A North regional tournament. And this season, the team’s only defeat came against Ridge View High School of Columbia, S.C. during the Carolina Invitational tournament on December 28.
But with an overarching goal of reaching the state tournament, Walton said it is imperative for her players to not let their guard down at any stage, especially with the postseason fast approaching.
“For us, it’s game by game and day by day,” Walton said. “I always tell them they are amongst the hunted. People are going to give you their best game, so we have to give them our best game every single night. Even in practice, we have a boys practice squad we play against every day. They’re a lot faster, they’re a lot stronger, so that’s who we compete against. And they don’t take it lightly on us, so that helps us come game night.”