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East senior's quick thinking pays off in 52-32 victory (w/gallery)

By BY JULIE GARCIA - JGARCIA@VICAD.COM
Dec. 10, 2013 at 6:10 a.m.

Gregory- Portland's Bailey Barrera, left, attempts to block Victoria East's Maya Haynes, left center.

As the only returning starter, Victoria East's Kendall Carter has learned to read the opponent's defense well enough to adjust her game.

Carter, who scored 20 points in East's 52-32 victory against Gregory-Portland on Tuesday night, feels the defense out on the first few possessions. Then, depending on its initial effort, Carter figures out how the rest of the game will play out.

As a four-year varsity player, she's used to aggressive moves on the court.

"I'm used to the competitiveness; I love it," Carter said. "I don't like when refs make ticky-tacky calls. I like when they let us go hard and play."

Though her job is to sink baskets, Carter makes sure to spread the ball around as often as she can.

"As a team player, if I see someone that's wide open, I'm going to pass them the ball," she said. "I've been told to score, but I want to involve the team as much as possible."

Those split-second decisions on the court are what makes Carter a good and experienced player, said East coach Yulonda Wimbish-North.

"She's definitely a leader on the team," Wimbish-North said about Carter's court presence. "She makes better decisions on the court."

Carter, who also plays on the varsity golf team, moved to Victoria as a sophomore from Harlingen.

"It's very different here, but the competition here is better," Carter said, comparing Crossroads basketball to the Class 5A high school in the valley. "It's a smaller school, but the competition and game is more fun."

The move provided Carter with the opportunity to stand out as a force on the court, she said.

Compared to previous seasons, East (7-9 overall, 1-1 district) has had some difficulty adjusting its strategy after losing several seniors last year.

"We have a very young team, but it's been a good thing because people are eager to work hard to earn their spot on the court," Carter said.

After losing to Tuloso-Midway last week in their first district game, Wimbish-North is relieved to have the 1-1 record but is quick to say the Lady Titans do not focus on past mistakes very long.

"We have to focus on the task at hand, focus on the now," Wimbish-North said. "I told them before the game that this was their opportunity - play to win, leave it all on the court - and I think they did that tonight."

Carter said that the first district loss didn't deter the team but instead fueled their fire.

"We do have what it takes to win. It's about heart, effort and hustle," Carter said. "As long as we apply ourselves the way we should, we can be victorious."

In the first eight games of East's season, Wimbish-North said the girls struggled to develop their defensive intensity, which she called a signature strategy for the Lady Titans.

"We've always had a history in this program of being a great defensive team," Wimbish-North said. "The kids came out ready to play on defense, and that made all the difference."

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