Lehman Lady Lobo girls basketball head coach Brad Taylor knew his program was facing an uphill climb Friday at the Den.
Persistent shooting woes that have plagued the Lady Lobos for the past few weeks resurfaced in a 38-22 senior night loss to a red-hot Bowie Lady Bulldogs squad.
But Taylor also took solace that despite Friday’s loss, Lehman is guaranteed to finish no worse than fifth in the final 25-6A standings. While missing out on the postseason by a few games stung, posting the program’s best finish in six-plus seasons provided a beacon of hope.
“The sky is the limit on where this team can go. We just have to keep that worker’s mentality and try to get better,” Taylor said. “We did make progress. Going from last place (in district) to fifth is a big difference.”
Lehman (14-19, 6-9) couldn’t keep Bowie guard Hailey Atwood from knocking down key buckets in critical moments. Eight points scored in the third frame by Atwood gave the Bulldogs (21-8, 14-1) enough momentum to speed away in the final 16 minutes of the contest.
Bowie outscored Lehman 22-10 down the stretch.
“She (Atwood) is, to me, the best one in the district. If she gets it going, it’s hard to stop it,” Taylor said.
But early on, Lehman kept Bowie’s torrid offense grounded. Utilization of a 1-2-2 and a 2-3 zone kept the Bulldogs off-balance in the first half, Taylor said.
Lobo junior guard Kayla Presley said defensive execution paid dividends in the first two quarters. Bowie only led Lehman 16-12 at halftime.
“We forced them to shoot around the perimeter and made them take longer contested shots,” Presley said.
Shooting struggles kept the Lobos from taking advantage and fighting back. The team’s biggest struggle is getting the ball in the hole, Presley said. For the most part, the Lobos were able to find open looks during the game.
Magnifying those problems was the absence of Bridgette Ramirez and Alyssa Saucedo due to injury. Taylor said while the Lobo defense can stop “anyone in the district,” struggles to put points on the scoreboard has been detrimental.
“We’ve got young people who are for the first time playing in a varsity setting and getting varsity minutes,” Taylor said. “Once we get at full strength, we can be better on offense.”
Amid struggles, Taylor said he’s pleased with progress made by the program this season. Last year, Lehman won nine total games and finished with one victory in district play.
Should Lehman beat Akins Tuesday, the Lobos will finish a season with more than 14 total wins for the first time since 2012-13. Presley said the entire Lobo girls basketball culture has “upgraded” in a way, with players harboring more of a “beast mentality.”
“We have to find those small positives and keep on building on it and hopefully it gives us the success we want in the future,” Taylor said.