Dean, Lady Jackets start hoops playoff run

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“Collective effort the entire game,” responded Mineola’s senior stand-out Sabria Dean when asked of expectations for the upcoming playoff run of the 2019-20 Lady Jackets. Entering the final playoff tournament of her stellar four-year career, Dean admitted matter-of-factly, “I am 100% committed to Mineola High School basketball.” 

The confidence and inner strength of the young McDonald’s All-American nominee are characteristics easily recognized by anyone who has watched her play. She just doesn’t play basketball, she becomes the game. 

Rarely does a player excel in all aspects of the game. Points, assists, steals, blocks and rebounds are the metrics used to describe talent on the court. Dean amasses these stats regularly, but what cannot be quantified are the leadership, grit and edge with which she plays the game. This year has already been a banner year for her and the Lady Jackets.

Comparing last years’ squad to the present team, she shared, “We knew if we were going to get better as a team this year that we would have to get better individually.” She continued, “and that meant one thing, more gym time.”  

The renewed commitment on a team that returned all but one player from 2019 has paid huge dividends.

As of Feb. 17, Mineola carries a 27-7 record and occupies the 11th spot in the Texas 3A state rankings. After battling the Edgewood Lady Bulldogs to determine the District 12-3A title and playoff seeding, the road to San Antonio started this week with an 80-8 walkover of A Plus Academy in bidistrict. 

Dean is not the only Lady Jacket driven to succeed. Classmate Tiara Stephens has blossomed on the inside post. Dean smiled broadly as she described her friend, “I have known her my whole life. She has always had such strength, but she is now using it.”

Another Lady Jacket known for her unique style of play, Jessiah Riley, has returned following a long recuperation period. Dean described her as being synonymous with effort, quickness and defense.

Along with the improved basketball skill, Dean commented how the team has collectively improved its basketball IQ.

“We work smarter, not harder,” she said. She described Coach Brad Gibson and his staff reviewing film daily and focusing the team on incremental improvement, day-in and day-out.

The 2019 East Texas Player of the Year will be headed to Beaumont shortly after graduation to join her new team at Lamar University. Before joining the collegiate ranks, Dean desires to experience that most unique feeling of cutting down the nets at the state tournament.  

Regardless of playoff results, she has left a legacy of achievement in Mineola athletics – a legacy built on one simple concept: hard work.

“Hard work can get you what you want,” she stated. The words were spoken slowly with the power of conviction.

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