Unprecedented Cowgirls thrive in 2021, Cowboys solidify team identity against state-ranked competition


Meghna Kulkarni

Coppell freshman guard Landry Sherrer watches as Coppell junior guard Jules Lamendola dribbles down court at CHS Arena on Dec.17. The Cowgirls are in the midst of a season for the history books while the Cowboys have completed a tough non-district schedule to hone in for district play.

Meer Mahfuz, Staff Writer

While most of the students in the Coppell ISD spent the winter break relaxing and spending time off of school, the Coppell Cowboys’ and Cowgirls’ basketball teams were busy on the court, preparing for the Whataburger Tournament and Frisco Centennial Tournament, respectively.

The Cowgirls (26-0, 4-0 in District 6-6A) are having an unprecedented season having gone undefeated so far. According to coach Ryan Murphy, the most wins any Cowgirl team has had was 31 wins so, with 10 games remaining, the Cowgirls would have to win five or more to break the record.

The Cowgirls work hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Coppell entered this season unranked after a 13-13 season last year but the Cowgirls are now ranked No. 7 in the state in the newest rankings from Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

According to Murphy, the unprecedented jump from last season to this season for the Cowgirls is two-fold: having a very young team last season and spending quality hours in the weight room in the offseason. 

In the Frisco Centennial Tournament last week, the Cowgirls went a 5-0 with a 62-31 win over The Colony on Dec. 28, a 63-33 win over Grapevine on Dec. 28, a 71-41 win over McKinney Boyd on Dec. 29, a 58-37 win over Denton Ryan on Dec. 30 and a comeback 53-48 win over Prosper Rock Hill on Dec. 30.

Over the five games, the Cowgirls won by an average margin of 23 points and dominated their opponents. Junior guard Jules LaMendola and senior forward India Howard were named to the all-tournament team.

In district play, the Cowgirls defeated Hebron, 54-31, on Tuesday at CHS Arena.

“Now is the fun part of the year because every game matters, it’s all district championship games and not some random tournament that doesn’t affect whether you get into the playoffs or not,” Murphy said. “Every game we’ve treated like a championship game in district like [any game] could be the game that wins the district championship or gets us into the playoffs. We’ll keep the championship mindset, take it one game at a time and hopefully, we can play well in the biggest games.”

The Cowboys (15-8, 2-0) faced stiff, state-ranked competition in the Whataburger Tournament with a 2-2 record in the orange division and lost in the fifth-place game. Coppell saw its state ranking drop to No. 21.

Coppell rallied to beat Class 5A No. 9 Mansfield Legacy, 71-63, on Dec. 28, fell to state-ranked Waxahachie, 61-55, on Dec. 29, dominated South Grand Prairie, 67-46, on Dec. 30 and fell to Class 6A No.4 McKinney, 70-50,0 on Dec. 30.

Despite a sixth place finish, the Cowboys competed against a wide array of talent that will only help them going into their remaining 12 district district games.

“The pre-district games that we have had, especially the Whataburger Tournament, has allowed us to play in a lot of different scenarios whereas if we were to play in a weaker schedule, we wouldn’t get many close game scenarios,” Coppell senior guard Ryan Agarwal said. “Getting help from the pre-district games and a tough schedule will only help us in the long run.” 

Facing many state-ranked opponents over the course of the non district campaign has also allowed the Cowboys to establish and cement their team identity.

“Our identity is that we play tough defense; we make it hard for you to score when we do what we need to do,” Coppell boys coach Clint Schnell said. “We take care of the basketball by not giving anyone any extra possessions or second-chance shots off of offensive rebounds and, when we do those things, we limit what the other team is capable of doing. The only challenge we have now is being consistent and following through on it.”

In district play, the Cowboys defeated Hebron, 66-58, on Tuesday at CHS Arena behind a 31-point performance from Agarwal.

Heading into the business end of the 2021-22 season, winning a district championship is on the minds of both teams. For the Cowboys, it would mean a 4-peat in district titles. For the Cowgirls, it would mean their first district championship since the 2010-11 season.

“We start 2022 off with a win and any win for us is a celebration and enjoy our wins but it’s still one game at a time,” Agarwal said. “In district play, every game matters. At the end of the day, none of [our preseason games] matters, all that matters is district games.”

On Friday, both teams host Lewisville at CHS Arena. The Cowgirls play at 6:30 p.m. while the Cowboys play at 8 p.m.

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