Sharyland Pioneer’s latest District 31-5A loss to Mission Veterans Memorial on Tuesday didn’t keep the Lady Diamondbacks from walking off the court in good spirits and knowing that they did all they could to avoid falling to the Lady Patriots.
The loss was Pioneer first-year girls basketball program’s third in four district games this season and 21st overall.
“We’re struggling a little bit, but I’m sure by the end of the season we’ll get better,” senior post Amanda Alvarado said. “We want to get better as a team and closer as a group, and work together to be a good basketball program.”
A first-year program in any sport isn’t an easy task to undertake and it’s one that’s almost always certain to struggle during the first few seasons.
“We’re definitely a work in progress,” Pioneer head coach Nicole Villarreal said. “We’re getting better every time. We’re very young in regard to experience. The girls have taken on their roles and they’re on the same page in regard to wanting us to get better.”
“There’s a lot of teaching going on every day,” added Villarreal. “One of the hardest things to do is to keep kids when you’re not winning, and that’s definitely one of my challenges. As long as the girls understand where we’re headed it makes it a little easier.”
Villarreal’s squad does understand and player attitude isn’t a problem as the Lady Diamondbacks displayed when they walked off the court at Mission Veterans.
Instead, two of Villarreal’s biggest challenges this season has been injuries and a lack of offense.
“We’re not a complete squad because we have some injuries and our starting lineup has been changing lately,” Villarreal said. “Because of injury, a lot of kids on the bench that weren’t getting minutes are getting minutes now.”
Pioneer recently played in a tournament over the holidays with eight players and finished with six.
“We grew because of that adversity and at the end of the game when we’re in the locker room there are still smiles on their faces because they did their best with what they had,” Villarreal said. “They played their butts off, they did what they could and I couldn’t ask for anything more of them. They are just a great bunch of kids.”
Offensively, the Lady Diamondbacks are averaging slightly over 20 points per game. Alvarado is the squad’s offensive leader and defense has been a concerted team effort.
Pioneer’s learning curve this year is big, and with good reason.
The Lady Diamondbacks began the season with no varsity experience on their squad. All their players came from Sharyland’s freshmen and junior varsity teams.
Alvarado, sophomore guard Ashley Briseño and junior guard Melissa De León have been Pioneer’s most consistent players this season.
“There’s a lot of teaching going on,” Villarreal explained. “We’ve met up with teams that have pressed us, played us in a zone, and we’ve had to find a way to score. I think we’ve seen everything that comes with the game of basketball. Finding the basket will come with time, we just have to continue to drill it and work it, and keep on working as the season progresses and into the offseason.”
Despite Pioneer’s overall 3-21 record, the district season is still young and the Lady Diamondbacks (1-3 district) can be competitive.
“We’re looking to be competitive every step of the way,” Villarreal said. “We’re preparing the kids for every game. We’ve done our scouting and we know what every team does, and we’re going to continue to teach, to work so that we can compete.”
“Our district is tough and the kids know it, but at the end of the day if we know that we did what we could do with what we had, that’s all we can ask of them,” she concluded. “We can’t ask them to go above and beyond their skill level and do something that we can’t do at this point. It’s going to happen down the road.”
Pioneer hosts sister school and district rival Sharyland at 6 p.m. on Friday.