Lady Indians finish strong season under new coach
Published 12:10 am Friday, February 17, 2023
PORT NECHES — Judy Visser knows the key is getting her players to believe in themselves and believe in each other.
From the get go, the Port Neches-Groves High basketball coach knew her team could be successful but she didn’t know if her players would buy in.
On Jan. 17, the Lady Indians lost to Goose Creek by one point in the final seconds. Many on the squad thought PNG was eliminated from playoff contention.
“We can still do this,” Visser said. “We just kept working and plucking at it. Finally, it dawned on then, ‘we do have this chance.’ I am so proud of them for not quitting, not giving up.”
The Lady Indians went 3-3 in district competition over their next six games, which set up a special, unscheduled game against old foe Goose Creek. Both teams were tied for fourth place in the district and only one squad could earn that last playoff spot.
The Lady Indians came out on top, 54-43, advancing to the postseason in the process and earning the respect of their first-year head coach.
“I was so proud of them,” Visser said. “Our final game of district we played Sterling again and we knew it was going to be another battle. We had just beat them in overtime our previous time. That was our final district game that we needed to win to force that playoff game against Goose Creek.”
Visser said she had been eyeing the playoffs for months, noting to her players there are only two spots listed on the school’s basketball banner of Lady Indians teams that advanced to the playoffs. She told them: “Let’s make that our goal and reach for that.”
When asked who on the team stepped up to lead on or off the court, Visser said it was always a team approach.
“Sometimes, it would be our post players who scored,” she said. “Sometimes it would be our guards who scored. That is important. If you just have one hot player, (your opponent) can heavily guard you. With us, it is an overall team effort.
“They all have a part in us winning. Sometimes it might mean not seeing a lot of playing time. Just playing tough defense during practice, making your teammate work when we’re doing 1-on-1 drills. It’s not one person.”
PNG received support from a five-person senior class that includes Jocelyn Dinh, Jessica James, Kyleigh Bushnell, Taliyah Cooks and Paige Wilson.
Visser said she talked to her team a lot about making 2022-23 a building year, which meant the varsity squad carried a lot of players to help form a program foundation.
It all came fast. Volleyball ended on a Tuesday, and PNG held scrimmages on a Saturday.
With a new coach came a new offense and new practice habits.
“I didn’t know any of these girls,” Visser said. “It is important that we set a foundation with a lot of the younger kids, so next year we are ready to roll and make some adjustments.
“Now it will be about refining things, adding things. We had to start from scratch, which is hard to do for kids who already feel defeated from the previous years. We can compete. This was a new district this year and we heard from many people how tough this district is. But we need to believe we can compete with these teams.”
PNG did more than compete in 2022-23, earning a fourth place finish in district and spot in the first round of the playoffs against Manvel. The Lady Indians fell 71-29, ending their season on Monday.