Survive and advance

Patel, Obialo pull Cowgirls from defensive slump to defeat Irving MacArthur

Anjali Krishna, Executive Editor-in-Chief

EULESS – In this extraordinary season for the Coppell girls basketball team, the Cowgirls accomplished yet another feat on Friday, beating Irving MacArthur, 53-36, at Euless Trinity to become Class 6A Region I Area champions for the first time since 2011.

The Cowgirls (37-1) play South Grand Prairie in the Class 6A Region I quarterfinals on Monday at 6 p.m. at Ranchview.

“This is something we’ve been working towards all season, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Coppell junior guard Jules LaMendola said. “It wasn’t our best performance but I put all I had forward and we did what we needed to do to win and move on.”

Though the Cowgirls were far from at their best, they led from start to finish. Coppell junior guard Alyssa Potter put up the first five points of the game to combat the Cowgirls’ sluggish offensive start, yet execution issues and a lack of ball movement plagued the team through the first half, finishing 29-19.

“I’m just glad to escape with a win,” Coppell coach Ryan Murphy said. “I don’t think we played our most efficient game, but it’s survive and advance, and today we survived.”

The second half marked a major turning point in the game, with MacArthur (18-9) attempting to speed up its offensive flow. Feeling rushed, the Cowgirls lost valuable possessions and allowed several successful breakaways by MacArthur sophomore center Erica Carr and senior Madison Green.

“We’ve got to slow down, be patient, play at our own speed and not freaking out when someone comes and rushes us, and throws the ball away,” Coppell senior forward India Howard said. “That third quarter was like, ‘hey guys, get your heads together, let’s focus, let’s go.’ We had the pieces, we had what we needed to beat them. They weren’t doing anything special; it was just us.”

The Cowgirls knew, coming into this game, that their solid defense would be all it needed to dominate the Cardinals. In the end, it would be Coppell junior guard Saiya Patel disrupting Irving MacArthur’s offensive flow and the addition of senior forward Kim Obialo that sparked the Cowgirls in the fourth quarter. 

“We made our run with Saiya and Kim on the floor, forcing turnovers, getting stops,” Murphy said. “They really picked up our defense which we needed.”

Obialo sat on the bench for the first three quarters, and was put into the game with the Cowgirls in trouble in the fourth. While Patel put up only two points, she rendered MacArthur inefficient, allowing Howard, Lamendola and Coppell junior guard to make valuable steals.

“Irving MacArthur didn’t scare me, because they weren’t doing anything extraordinary,” Howard said. “It was our own mistakes, which means we can fix it and that we had control of the situation. Luckily, we were able to take control of it and do just that.”

Though the Cowgirls lacked in defense, they were unflappable when it came to referee calls highly dissented by Coppell fans. 

“We were irritated with some of the calls but the five girls on the court didn’t really react, they just moved on to the next play,” Murphy said. “That’s what’s been so fun about this group, they just do their job.”

Play paused for several minutes in the third quarter as Green was struck in the face, ending up with a bloody nose. The pause in play gave the Cowgirls a moment to reset and settle down, coming back far more composed when play began. 

The Cowgirls left the court last night knowing that to beat South Grand Prairie in the next playoff round, improvement is necessary.

“We have to take care of playing more solid defense, with less fouls,” Howard said. “A win sometimes hides the mistakes but we need to look at those and work on those to get better. This team is not one the best teams we’ve played and it’s not going to be the best team we play. Although we’re happy with this win, we’re making history, we’re looking forward to that next game. We’re not where we need to be and we’re working to get better.”

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