Last season, the Rouse girls basketball team got a taste of what it felt like to make a playoff run. This season, the Lady Raiders think they have the pieces to make it even further.
Rouse is off to a flying start winning 13 of its first 17 games, starting the district with three straight wins and climbing the TABC Class 5A poll to No. 13 in the last two weeks.
“These girls, out of every team I’ve ever coached, are the most selfless group of girls,” Rouse coach Lori McDonald said. “They don’t care who’s scoring as long as we take care of business at the end of the night.”
The roster consists entirely of juniors and seniors and returns three starters from last year's regional semifinals team. The Lady Raiders also add senior Zaiah Jackson and junior Kania Jackson, who transferred to the school before the start of the season.
McDonald said the depth is something different from last season, but it really hasn’t changed the way the Lady Raiders play, which focuses on defense and shooting.
“When somebody is hot and someone else is not, we work to get them the ball,” McDonald said. “That makes us harder to scout, because depending on what film you get, the main scorer changes from game to game.”
A good start is nothing new to the Lady Raiders, who won five of their first six games last year when they held a spot in the polls for most of the season.
But McDonald said the team is quick to keep a level head, remembering last year when the team beat Elgin by more than 60 points at the beginning of the district schedule before losing to Bastrop in overtime later in the same week.
Rouse also went through a bit of a rough patch against some of the top teams in the state at the Nancy Walling Classic in Pflugerville last weekend, falling to No. 7 Pflugerville, then to Allen and Pearland but beating San Benito and Vista Ridge.
“We know that we have to give our best game every time to get where we want to go,” senior Taylor Douthitt said. “Having the older people, we’re able to have a better basketball IQ and can take advantage of mistakes that other teams make.”
Martin is the only returning All-District first team player. Douthitt and Chloe Austin were named to the second team last season. Emily Schaible and Ashley Thompson were on the honorable mention list, while McDonald was named coach of the year after a milestone season for the still relatively young school.
“Our team this year has a different clientele and we’re playing at a different pace,” Martin said. “We’re basically a whole new team this year and the run could increase. It’s going to help us for sure.”
Rouse continues district play with a home meeting with Cedar Creek on Friday ahead of a road contest at defending 19-5A champion and regional finalist Georgetown on Tuesday.
The Lady Raiders will have a shorter than usual Christmas break before heading to Weatherford for a tournament beginning Dec. 28.
While Douthitt and Martin would each like to do some other things over the break, this team is one thing they’re willing to give up their vacation for.
“We’re a strong defensive team, but overall, this is probably the best team chemistry that Rouse has ever seen come out of any team,” Martin said. “All the girls connect on a level like no other. It’s the best team I’ve played on and it’s the best team I probably ever will play on.”