Measurable statistics cannot always predict the outcome of a basketball game, especially when the veteran coach at the helm has a roster full of experience. There is no secret heading into the upcoming season that the Waxahachie Lady Indian basketball team will often take the court much smaller than the team on the other side of the opening tipoff.
It is also not a surprise that Waxahachie head basketball coach Leslie Priebe knows just how to approach a grueling schedule with a guard-heavy team.
Entering her 23rd season as a head coach, Priebe begins the season with 478 career wins and a team without a single player taller than 5-foot-9.
The Lady Indians knew early on that they would be without their leading scorer from a season ago, Shaquoria Thompson. The 6-foot senior averaged 10.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game to help lead the Lady Indians to a 17-14 record and bi-district playoff berth. She also tore her ACL in the offseason.
To counter the loss, Priebe is running, literally, with a lineup built around strong guard play — both in the front and backcourt. Of the 10 active players on the varsity roster, three are listed as forwards with the remaining seven all suiting up as combo guards.
They are entering the season with the mantra of "Fast and Furious."
“We are going to have to keep it at a high tempo on both ends of the floor, and we are going to have to take teams out of their offense, especially against teams with size in our district — like Timberview, Legacy, Lancaster, Midlothian, and Summit,” Priebe said. “We are going to have to take them out of their offense by pressing and trapping and using ‘junk’ defense, just not playing your regular zone or man defenses. We’ll have to mix it up.”
What the Lady Indians lack in height, they more than make-up for in experience and speed.
Leading the charge will be Diamond Atchison (5-foot-5, senior) and Sarah Bush (5-foot-7, senior) — a pair of ball control guards who can shoot well from anywhere on the floor. Bush transferred to Waxahachie from Red Oak over the summer.
“It is so nice to have Sarah move in here, and she fits in with the team so well. She’s a great kid, great player, and a great competitor,” Priebe said. “I see Diamond more of a defensive player and has gotten defensive player of the year in our district as a sophomore and a junior. They are just two really good, all-around players.”
Atchison, Destini Washington (5-foot-5, senior), Jordan McGee (5-foot-5, junior) and Cassidy Morgan (5-foot-9, junior) all saw time in the starting five last season, as did Bush while playing for Red Oak.
Due to Thompson’s season-ending injury, Atchison returns as the Lady Indians leading scorer. The senior guard average 7.3 points, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.9 rebounds per game in 2016-17.
McGee, who Priebe said “looked good” during the fall league, also brings her 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game back into the fold. Though Washington averaged just 2.7 points per game last year, she also accounted for 2.5 rebounds and served as a defensive sparkplug.
“Washington is just tenacious on defense, a lot like Diamond,” Priebe said. “I feel like we are an all-around better team than last year and a more experienced team. Unfortunately, we just don’t have the size as some teams. There will be lots of transition and lots of fast-breaking.”
Waxahachie also has the luxury of featuring sharpshooter Paris Gant (5-foot-7, junior, 4.7 ppg) and the ball handling and defensive talent of Rayna Ross (5-foot-9, sophomore) more often. Ross (4.4 reb, 5.5 ppg) recently helped an elite AAU team win a national championship in Chicago.
Priebe is no stranger to a guard-heavy lineup, either. In 2000, there was not a single player taller than the 5-foot-10 head coach — and that team lost in the 4A state championship game to Canyon, 74-54. The Lady Indians then lost to Dallas Lincoln 59-44 in the 4A Regional Quarterfinal the following season.
“We pressed and we ran,” said Priebe, who maintains tempered expectations for this year’s Lady Indian team.
“One of our mottos is that we are going to be the best-conditioned teams in the state of Texas and one of the hardest working teams in the state. Period. Those are two things that we pride ourselves on that the girls hear every day.”
She added, “I truly believe if you are truly disciplined and in really good shape then good things are going to happen and you are probably going to beat some teams that you shouldn’t. That is what happens when you work hard.”
Waxahachie begins its season Saturday with a scrimmage showcase at Desoto High School. The Lady Indians play at 8, 9:50 and 10:45 a.m. The second game is in the primary gym with the other two games played in the auxiliary gym (No. 2).
They will then scrimmage Benbrook and Burleson Centennial at home Thursday, Nov. 2 before hosting the first-ever Waxahachie Basketball Preview event the following day at George W. Solis Gymnasium. The preview is a combined effort with the Runnin' Indians.
The event, which offsets midnight madness, is a family-friendly opportunity for the community to meet the Lady Indians and Runnin’ Indians, as well as watch performances by the drum line, charmers, and cheerleaders. There will also be various skills contests. The preview is from 6-7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3. Admission is $1 for students and $2 for adults.