Knights vanquish Jaguars in second faceoff to stay unbeaten in district play, crack 5A state Top 25

In a close game, the varsity girls basketball team secured an essential victory against second-place LBJ, showing strength, persistence and the will to win

Junior Esme Barraz reaches for the ball in last Tuesday’s game against LBJ, one of McCallum’s most formidable district competitors. “They are second in the district, and last time we played them, we won in overtime,” Barraz said. “This being said, we really brought our energy and were able to execute enough to win.” The Knights worked hard to support each other and executed successful plays to bring home the win and maintain the first place title. Caption by Isley Cameron. Photo by Amira Habib Weymouth.

Ingrid Smith and Lillian Gray

The girls varsity basketball team is still undefeated in district play at 12-0 after a series of major victories, including a second instant-classic win over second-place LBJ this season last Tuesday, and victories over Navarro and LASA on Friday and earlier tonight.

Coming off of Friday night’s win, the team was honored in today’s Austin American-Statesman as the Team of the Week. The Statesman mentioned the victories over LBJ and Navarro were two huge district wins that kept the Knights’ primary challengers at bay, bringing the team’s overall record of 22-7 and even earning a No. 19 Texas Girls Coaches Association state ranking among 5A girls basketball teams.

While all three victories were impressive athletic feats, the matchup against the LBJ Jaguars was a hair-raising saga from start to finish. The score was close throughout the entire game, and the Knights kept battling until the final buzzer. With the Knights losing late  in the game, Coach Kehn encouraged her players to keep fighting.

“When we were down by two with around three minutes left, and LBJ was going on a run,” Kehn said. “We were playing a little carelessly. I told them that I need five out there who want to fight for the win, and anyone else can go to the locker room because the game is far from over.”

After Coach Kehn’s timeout talk to the team, the Knights caught up then pulled away from the Jaguars, leaving the fourth quarter as their highest-scoring quarter this game after scoring eight points in the last three minutes.

“At that moment, the players needed to know and believe that they had the ability to win,” Kehn said.

Sophomore point guard Emy Chen led the Knights with 17 points, and junior center Sam Cowles played big on both ends of the court, scoring 11 points, grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with three steals and four blocked shots.

We are pleased to share moments from this signature win for the girls basketball program as this week’s Tuesday Top 10 photo essay.

THE GAME PLAN: After facing LBJ early this season with the Knights winning in overtime, the team and Coach Kehn had a better sense of what they were facing coming into last Tuesday night’s game.

“The plan going into the game was focusing on limiting their two top scorers,” Kehn said. “We wanted to force them to the left side of the court since they prefer to shoot and shoot a higher percentage on the right.” 

Knowing LBJ’s strengths helped the Knights slow down the Jaguars in crucial moments.

“We know when they start hitting shots and getting a flow for the game they can be very dangerous,” Kehn said.

Caption by Lillian Gray. Photo by Stella Little. 

TEARING IT UP: The varsity basketball team opened the night with a grand entrance, ripping off their tearaway pants and then jumping straight into warm-ups. The last time the Knights faced off against LBJ on Dec. 6, they managed to win by four points in overtime on the Jaguars’ court. Last Tuesday, they hoped to repeat the victory, this time on McCallum turf, and through four quarters of fast breaks and persistence, the Knights savored the sweet taste of victory. Sophomore Sonya Peterson felt that the home court was helpful in keeping her concentrated. 

“It was more familiar playing on the court I practice on every day, which I think helped keep me focused,” Peterson said.

The LBJ game offered Peterson more time on the court than what she’s accustomed to, which was both a positive and negative.

“I did a good job at being dialed in the whole game, [but] I was a little more tired than usual,” she said. “I was still able to push myself to run hard when I was in.”

Photo and caption by Francie Wilhelm.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Junior Esme Barraz reaches for the ball in last Tuesday’s game against LBJ, one of McCallum’s most formidable district competitors.

“They are second in the district, and last time we played them, we won in overtime,” Barraz said. “This being said, we really brought our energy and were able to execute enough to win.”

Caption by Isley Cameron. Photo by Amira Habib Weymouth.

ONE OF HER BEST: Senior center Aasja Wren fights to steal the ball from the LBJ Jaguars in last Tuesday’s game. Wren managed to score four points and six rebounds in the nail-biter game, making it one of her best statistical performances this district season. Photo by Lillian Gray. 

STAYING AGGRESSIVE: Sophomore Miranda DiGiovanni fights to maintain possession against LBJ defenders in the game last Tuesday. 

According to DiGiovanni, the Jaguars put the Knights in a tough spot in terms of balancing ferocity and fair play. 

“The most challenging part was not fouling while still being aggressive on defense,” DiGiovanni said. “They pressured us a lot and were driving a lot on offense.”

For much of the game, the Knights and Jaguars were neck and neck, fighting for any opportunity to make a significant point lead. In the last two minutes, the Jaguars managed to pull ahead by three points, forcing the Knights to reevaluate and focus on flipping the scoreboard.

“We knew we had to step up and improve our defense,” DiGiovanni said. “We pushed in transition [moving from defense to offense, or vice versa] which was exciting, and also pushed the momentum to our favor to get us a bunch of fast break layups.”

The hard work and concentration paid off when the Knights took home the win and maintained their district streak. As the season continues, DiGiovanni points to Travis and LASA as major competitors. “[We need] to maintain our composure and not [be] overconfident,” DiGiovanni said.

Caption by Francie Wilhelm. Photo by Amira Habib Weymouth. 

FRESHMEN MAKE BEST FANS: After beating LBJ themselves, the freshman basketball team stayed behind to support JV and varsity teams in their matches. 

“I really enjoy watching basketball games,” freshman Josephine Fahrenbacher-Martin said. “The older girls are good role models for us.”

Fahrenbacher-Martin believes the higher level teams demonstrate good teamwork and other important qualities. 

“They’re very good at being a team,” Fahrenbacher-Martin said. “I can learn a lot from watching them play.”

Caption by JoJo Barnard. Photo by Francie Wilhelm.

SHOOTING FOR THE STARS: Junior center Sam Cowles reaches high during an attack on the LBJ basket. This is Mac’s second time playing LBJ during the district season and, as they did the first time, they narrowly escaped with a crucial victory.

“It was definitely more difficult than we thought it would be,” Cowles said, “They were a very physical team, and they did a good job defending.”

Despite their undefeated district record heading into the game, the team wasn’t sure how things would play out against their fiercest district opponent. Their nerves did prove to be helpful, aiding the team in the eventual win.

“At the beginning, we played with some nerves and little confidence,” Cowles said, “Once we started the game, though, we really got down and executed the game plan.”

Caption by Helen Martin. Photo by Amira Habib Weymouth.

MAJOR POM: At halftime of the varsity girls basketball victory over LBJ last Tuesday, the Blue Brigade performed the pom ensemble dance that it will take to the Crowd Pleasers dance competition in Seguin on Feb. 11. 

Captain Sophia Kramer choreographed the routine. It’s the second year she has choreographed the pom ensemble for the squad. This year’s number is different, she said, because it features a smaller ensemble (only 16 dancers) and a blend of jazz, Latin and college pom sharp styles.

“I was super excited to choreograph it because it was my first time doing a dance with this number of people and this caliber of talent,” Kramer said. “I was so excited to play around with different formations, tricks, and debut our new poms.”

The dance features several seamless transitions and visual effects. At one point, the dancers form two circles that merge and then break apart. Another striking visual effect occurs when the last two lines merge and then separate.
The dance is the only competition dance that Kramer choreographed this season, and that is in part because the team, its director and its booster club all made a conscious effort to raise more funds this season and to devote more of the team’s resources to improve their competition routines.

“What we really tried to do this year was get on a similar level to the other teams we were competing against,” Kramer said. “Of course, we are all amazing dancers and fabulous choreographers, but at the end of the day comparing a full-time student’s dance to a professional paid choreographer’s was unfair.”

This year the officers choreographed more dances in the fall so that they could ask the pros to choreograph more of their competition dances. But while this move will help the team compete, Kramer said it was also still vital that the officers choreograph some competition routines as well.

“It’s super important for us to choreograph dances because when the time comes to clean those professionally done dances we understand what their thought process is, how to really get inside the pocket of their own counts and placements, and help the team as best we can.”

Caption by Dave Winter. Photo by Lillian Gray.

SCHOOL SPIRIT: The McCallum cheer team poses for a photo in the stands at last Tuesday’s basketball game. While the team didn’t execute any stunts, they called out cheers from the bleachers to spur on the Knights.

“I like cheering at basketball games because you’re with a smaller group of the squad so it’s less stressful and you can focus more on cheering on the school,” freshman cheerleader Heidi Wilhelm said. “The game was interesting because the score was really going back and forth and you couldn’t tell who was going to win.”

Photo by Francie Wilhelm.

Sophomore Emy Chen and junior Lily Hobbs drive the ball up the court. Photo by Lillian Gray.

PLAYING HARD TILL THE END: Sophomore Emy Chen sprints forward for a fast break layup. Last Tuesday, the McCallum girls’ basketball team beat the LBJ

Jaguars, 46-40.  The Knight jumped out to an early lead and then the game got closer in the second and third quarters. After falling behind late, the Knights managed to take the victory thanks to some quick thinking and fast plays.

“I’m really proud of how we kept this mindset that the game’s not over,” Chen said. “We just kept pushing.”

Photo and caption by Amira Habib Weymouth.

AIMING HIGH: Junior Sam Shreves shoots the ball in the game against LBJ.

“We did not play to our fullest potential the whole game,” Shreves said, “but when we did stick to the game plan we were able to go on runs that lead to the win.”

The team never goes into the game expecting a win, Shreves started off nervous, but the nerves soon wore off.

“The highlight of the game was the last few minutes when we had a run, leading to steals and breakaway layups,” Shreves said.

Caption by Elena Ulack. Photo by Amira Habib Weymouth