By BILL PETERSON
BUDA – Approach Hays High School girls basketball coach Donny McDonald any October, and he’s likely to tell you his team will be lucky to finish .500 and go to the playoffs. Never mind that he’s taken his teams to the playoffs 12 times in the last 13 years.
But even those who rib McDonald for poor-mouthing wondered if he might not be right this past October. Last year, the Rebels missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. And they returned only one senior from that team.
“I really didn’t know what kind of team we were going to be,” McDonald said. “I knew we had a good junior class, but I didn’t know how good.”
Turns out, it’s good enough to drive the Rebels back to the state tournament for the first time since 2001 and the third time in the school’s history.
The Rebels completed a tight run to the state final four in Class 4A last weekend with wins of 48-44 against Angelton and 41-40 over Del Valle in Spring Branch for the Region III championship. The Rebels now are 34-4 as they take on Waco Midway in the state semifinals Thursday night in the Erwin Center (8:30 p.m.).
Though the Rebels are young, they’re not as inexperienced as their ages might suggest. Juniors Ashley Magallanez, Ashley Rankine and Angeleigh Davis all played on the varsity last year. The only senior, Shelby Calabrese, has been on the varsity since she was a freshman.
It remains, though, that the Rebels are in the state tournament with a team lacking stars. It’s probably just as well for McDonald, who has been as star-crossed as a coach could be when it comes to star players.
After the Rebels finished the 2003-2004 season with a 31-2 record, McDonald looked forward to trying it the next year with 6-foot Anna Breyfogle coming back for her senior season. But Breyfogle told McDonald right after that 31-2 season that she would forego her senior year to play volleyball.
It turned out a good move for Breyfogle, who concentrated on club volleyball, won a scholarship to Baylor and was named All-Big 12 during her junior season last fall. Breyfogle also was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association Central Region team.
Last season, McDonald looked forward to Lindie Kimbro’s senior year. Kimbro was named Central Texas player of the year for her junior season by the Austin American-Statesman. But Kimbro blew out her knee early last season, which might be cited as the starting point for the present state tournament run.
With Kimbro out for the season, a young Hays team had carry on without her, and that team took it’s lumps, missing the playoffs. With no stars among them, the Rebels resolved to concentrate together on what’s important. In McDonald’s world, that’s defense.
“I think it’s one of the best defensive teams we’ve had,” McDonald said. “We really didn’t have that good of a defensive team last year. We really focused on it in the spring and the fall.”
Said Calabrese, “We all decided to come out together in the summer and work hard together for this goal.”
The Rebels have allowed only 41.7 points per game this year. More often than not, they hold opposition to single-digit quarters. And, as McDonald said, “We caught fire at just the right time, for the playoffs.” The Rebels have held six playoff opponents to an average of 39.8 points.
“This is not an offensive team,” McDonald said. “It’s a defensive team that gets a lot of points off steals.”
McDonald said Calabrese has been the team leader, as the only returning senior. EJ Joyner, who transferred this year from Akins, has worked with Magallanez and junior Brooke Borreson to give the team inside glue. Rankine and Davis both are stalwart defenders and clutch players. Davis was named Distgrict 17-4A defensive player of the year and led the Rebels in scoring for their last two games. Rankine scored the winning basket against Del Valle off a pass from Calabrese.
And the Rebels can send waves of defense at opponents, going ten deep on a consistent basis.
“If we get in foul trouble, it really doesn’t bother us that much,” McDonald said. “We just put somebody else in.”
The Rebels will have their work cut out Thursday night against Waco Midway (33-4), which won Region II and enters the game on a 22-game winning streak. Midway center Cokie Reed is an All-American signed with the University of Texas. DeLisa Gross, a swing player, is signed with Texas Christian.
The Rebels have no such star power. But they haven’t needed it.
“We’re not the tallest and we’re not the quickest out there,” Calabrese said. “But together, we have chemistry.”Email | Print