The Lady Yellowjackets overwhelmed the visiting Grand Saline Lady Indians 70–47 last Tuesday night in the opening round of district play. Unrelenting full-court defensive pressure and an elevated energy level marked the Lady Jackets’ triumph.
The court generalship of Junior Sabria Dean directed the Jackets throughout the contest. Her basketball acumen, vision and skills were on display all evening.
A combination of Dean’s leadership and the dynamic energy of Junior Jessiah Riley, who was relentless in her game, established Mineola’s dominance early. If Dean was the brains behind the victory, Riley was the heart.
Junior Cyndi Butler opened the scoring with two points off of a steal, and Mineola jumped out to a 9–0 advantage as Grand Saline struggled to break the Lady Jackets’ press. The Jackets’ hustling defense pressed all night. When Grand Saline managed to break it and get the ball inside, they scored, but throughout the night the Mineola press won the majority of possessions.
Dean scored after securing her own offensive rebound and fighting back into the lane to make it 18–12 at the end of the first quarter. A beautiful assist from Dean to Tahjae Black for a score continued the action in the second quarter. That combination scored twice more on long outlet passes to make the score 28–16 as Mineola began to widen the margin. After a Riley drive into the lane and kick out to Butler for a bucket, the game went into the break with the score Mineola 35 Grand Saline 23.
The second half mirrored the first. The consistent play at such a high energy level is a testament to the Lady Jackets’ conditioning and mental toughness. They were locked in all night; no gaps or let-downs in their play were evident.
Three baseline scoring drives by Dean opened the lead to 17 points midway through the quarter. Despite the margin, there was no quit in Grand Saline, and both teams battled for each possession and loose ball. At the end of three quarters, the score stood 50–32, Mineola.
Grand Saline transitioned to a zone defense to start the fourth quarter, but the Lady Jackets adjusted well and continued scoring apace. Black distinguished herself with a strong inside game in the final quarter.
Indicative of the whole night, Riley, who stands 5’ 2’’, took the ball inside in the closing minutes and converted a three-point play. The joy demonstrated by her teammates on her play spoke volumes about their sense of team. Riley followed up on the next possession when she chased down a loose ball from mid-court and slid across the lane, scooping the ball to a teammate for a score.
The Lady Jackets were engaged throughout the contest. The initial district effort indicates a promising district run for coach Tony Riley and his charges.