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Goliad snaps district-title drought, prepares for playoff run

By bY CLAY WHITTINGTON - CWHITTINGTON@VICAD.COM
Feb. 15, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.

Goliad junior post Avery Zamzow works through a shooting drill with teammates during practice Wednesday. The team is ranked 20th in Class 3A after a 24-9 record this season. They won their district for the first time in 27 years.

GOLIAD - It is a good time to be a Tigerette.

Thanks in part to a one-point road victory at Rockport-Fulton on the final day of the regular season, the Goliad Tigerettes clinched the program's first outright district championship since 1985, snapping a 27-year drought.

Although Goliad earned a share of its district championship in 2007, the team's 9-1 run through District 30-3A this season has garnered the players plenty of attention, along with some unforseen popularity from fellow students in the process.

"Our principal had a no-homework day whenever we went to play (at Rockport-Fulton) last Tuesday because they wanted everyone to go to the game," senior wing Beth Henning said. "We are the team that brought back filling the stands here.

"At the beginning of the year, our parents were here, but, as we kept winning, more people would come."

While the students enjoyed the Tigerettes' gift of an evening without having to study, and the fans were thrilled about the product on the court, head coach John Reyes was filled with a unique sense of pride regarding his first season at the helm of the program.

"(The district championship) kind of solidified the things that I do, and being that this is my hometown as well, it was a special feeling," the coach said.

But Goliad's ultimate goal has not been accomplished.

"We want to go to the state tournament," Reyes said. "That is the goal.

"Whether or not we are capable of that, we will find out as we get deeper in the playoffs."

The Tigerettes' run toward a state title begins Friday against Rio Hondo at 7:30 p.m. inside the Texas A&M-Kingsville gymnasium.

While the Tigerettes received an opening-round bye, Rio Hondo - the third-place finisher in District 32-3A - is coming off a 38-32 bi-district win over Raymondville.

"They are scrappy," Reyes said of the Bobcats. "They play real hard. They play man-to-man, full-court defense, so we've got to be prepared for that."

Luckily, the Tigerettes have several offensive threats.

Goliad is led by point guard Jessiah Johnson (16.8 points per game), who is the team's top outside shooter, but the team is diversified with a pair of inside options.

Junior center Avery Zamzow and junior forward Emily Perez are each hovering around double-digit scoring averages with Perez contributing 10.5 points per game and Zamzow adding 9.9 per contest. Sophomore guard Sydney Morris has become a threat as well, scoring at least eight points on five occasions during district play.

"It's not just a one-man show or a two-man show," Johnson said. "Everybody is coming out of their shell (as far as) stepping up."

While having offensive options is a benefit, Reyes believes his team's postseason success will be determined by defense.

So far, the philosophy is working, allowing the Tigerettes to climb to No. 20 in the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Class 3A poll.

After participating in a number of high-scoring affairs early in the season, Goliad limited district opponents to just 36.5 per game, holding teams under 35 points six times.

"That is what it is going to take in the playoffs," Reyes said. "You always hear the saying about offense winning games and defense winning championships; well, it's true."

For the season, the Tigerettes are averaging 29.3 rebounds, 11.8 steals and 3.9 blocks per game.

Should Goliad defeat Rio Hondo and the winner between La Feria and Columbia, there is a strong possibility the Tigerettes will run into No. 3 Yoakum in the regional semifinals.

The Lady Bulldogs beat Goliad twice during non-district competition, including once in Goliad at the Tigerette Holiday Classic.

"They are a great team, and there is that possibility of running into Yoakum again," Reyes said. "If that is the case, then we will welcome that challenge."

Even if the Tigerettes earned a measure of revenge against the Lady Bulldogs to advance to the regional finals, the victory, along with the district championship, would be tarnished in Johnson's eyes.

"I always aim higher," the senior said. "I want to make it to state and get that gold ball."

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