Lady Bulldogs hoops looking to close strong as regular season nears end

Published 12:02 am Thursday, January 26, 2023

NEDERLAND — The Lady Bulldogs of Nederland began the week 8-11, fighting for a spot in the postseason.

After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, head coach Jodie Walker and returning starters alike are hungry to get back into the dance.

“Our overall goal is to just be better than we were in previous years and make it to the playoffs,” said senior and 4-year starter Sydney Nelson. “I just want to contribute to the team to be able to make that happen.”

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This seems to be a recurring sentiment among a starting five consisting of mostly seniors who have all stepped into a leadership role and continuously pushed each other, and the team to help the Lady Bulldogs accomplish their goals.

Walker said three of his seniors have been four-year starters, adding he leans heavily on them.

They are shooting guard Maggie Baker, power forward Sydney Nelson and point guard Ava Wiltz.

Unfortunately for Wiltz and the rest of the team, she suffered a season-ending injury during the Christmas tournament, and the team misses her on-court presence.

Fortunately for the scrappy Bulldogs, they have several younger players seeing larger roles to help fill the void left in the absence of their starting point guard.

“We have several sophomores and juniors that have really come a long way,” Walker said. “Girls like Ryal Butler, Illiana Thomas and Breanna Jones have just really stepped up big for us this year.”

In his fourth year as a head coach, Walker brings his own unique style with him. Instead of having a set system to run through, Walker prefers to game plan for the specific opponent and the type of night the team is having.

This makes the Lady Bulldogs a fast-paced, versatile squad and a dangerous one in any matchup.

“I just want to get the at the rim, rebound and get it up the floor,” Walker said. “I don’t want to set up an offense because to me there is just too many bad things that can happen. If we have to set up one, I like to work inside out. Feed the post and get our shooters open.”

In high school hoops, the end goal is always going to be making and winning in the playoffs, but for a team like Nederland’s girls who hadn’t had a lot of historical success until this most recent stretch, Walker acknowledges the importance of improving every year to establish a program and a winning culture.

“You always come into the season with big expectations, and that’s what we have been practicing for,” Walker said, “but understanding who we are and where we’re at is important. We’re still trying to establish a program here at Nederland, but we’re happy with the progress we’ve made. We’ve come a long way.”

It won’t be easy with teams like resident power house Barbers Hill looming on the schedule, but either way the hometown faithful has to be happy about how far this team has come, and how far the program can go in the future.

— Written by Brett Strahan