Experience vs. Youth: Nederland, PNG battle in key district showdown

Published 12:16 am Thursday, January 30, 2020

Port Neches-Groves coach Kara Skinner said the Indians’ greater experience over the fairly young Nederland team will give them an advantage for the rival schools’ second district match of the season at 7 p.m. Friday at Port Neches-Groves High School.

Nederland coach Jody Walker said that very same youth is instead going to be an asset for the Bulldogs.

“Our youthfulness is going to be a big plus for us,” Walker said. “They’re more carefree in playing, they let stuff go and get on to the next play, they don’t get caught up, and if something happens they’re on to the next play, letting it go and getting ready to play.”

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Both teams move into Friday with recent home wins. The Indians beat Dayton 53-25 to improve to 6-2 in district and 15-8 overall, while the Bulldogs defeated Vidor 45-33, improving to 4-5 in district and 15-14 overall.

PNG won the first round 58-44 on Jan. 7, though Skinner says she was impressed by the athleticism the Nederland team exhibited.

“They’re a more disciplined team fundamentally, I think they’re a little bit more sound and more aggressive playing better basketball, in my opinion, than they have in years past,” she said. “I’ve always thought that they were athletic but I think they’re doing some good things. All things, I think, we’ve known in the past about them, but just better executed this year than in the past.”

Still, Walker says the game will be a challenge, like the rest of the district.

“I’m looking forward to it being another great contest against a district opponent,” Walker said. “All the kids are very familiar with each other. It’s going to be a big challenge. They’ve got a pretty good group of girls, so we’re getting ready to get after them and see what happens.”

Walker will work to keep his girls grounded in the face of such an intense rivalry, and make sure they stick to the game plan.

“My biggest job in that matter is getting them to understand and try not to do too much,” he said. “We just need to stay within our scheme and try not to play above, play great complimentary basketball. The environment over there is going to be pretty good, so we’re just going to have to be ready for whatever comes.”

His Bulldogs will also have good defensive energy on their side, in addition to the youthful grit his team shows.

“It’s going to be hard trying to stop those girls,” he said. “We just want to make sure they take contested shots and limit their transition buckets, just make them have to run an offense and execute a score, and make it as difficult as we can for them.

Defense may also be on the Indians side as well, Skinner thinks, based on how her team has done in recent games.

“The last time we played Nederland, they had a strong second half against us, so definitely it’s an area we’re looking to improve on,” Skinner said. “I think we have improved defensively. I think we showed that last night against Dayton. We want to hold them a little bit tighter. Less points on the scoreboard from them is what I’m looking for from my kids defensively. Boxing out, rebounding, I think is always a concern for us.”