After the past two seasons Lipan Lady Indians basketball coach Amber Branson has had, she doesn’t hesitate one second when asked how to follow up.
“Try to get back to Austin and win it this time,” she said matter-of-factly.
That’s about the only thing Branson and her Lady Indians did not experience the past couple of years.
In 2011 on their way to state, Branson made national headlines when she had a baby after the regional semifinals – and returned to coach in the regional championship the next day. That game was a 45-41 victory against rival Newcastle in which the Lady Indians overcame a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes.
Last season the Lady Indians returned to state, reaching the championship round and losing to defending champion Neches.
A lot of folks believe the Lady Indians will not only make it back to Austin, but indeed bring home their first state championship. Coming off a 34-4 season, the Lady Indians are ranked first in Class A Division II in the preseason by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Despite the loss of all-state guard and district MVP Zully Martinez, the Lady Indians are once again loaded. They return three starters, including reigning 16-A Offensive MVP junior center Shauna Coleman.
The 6-foot Coleman was a force offensively (16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds) and defensively (2.5 blocks, 2.4 steals). She is joined by returning starters senior guard 5-3 Rhiana Michou and 5-7 junior forward Kayla Wheeler.
Michou (6.8 points, 5.1 assists, 2.4 steals) was first-team all-district, while Wheeler was a second-team choice.
Also, the junior varsity was 8-4 last season and the junior high squad was 17-1.
The Lady Indians’ first test will be winning district. The league also features No. 6 Strawn.
“Strawn will be tough, Gordon as well,” said Branson. “Then we rejoined with Huckabay and Lingleville, who are always competitive.”
Lipan moved into Region III this season, with the regional tournament being in Tyler. Their biggest obstacle looks to come from No. 3 Saltillo, regional runner-up to Neches the past two seasons.
Ultimately, Branson said, the key to getting back to state and winning a title is simple in statement but challenging nonetheless. And yes, it does include an old cliche that she’s not ashamed to employ.
“The key is to continue doing what we’ve been doing and improve daily,” said Branson, who also led Lipan to state as a player in 1995. “Take it one game at a time.”
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