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Ready for the road ahead

Feb 20, 2015 11:22AM ● Published by Dia

By EJ Holland
Photography by Rex Teter

When Teri Morrison first took over the Southlake Carroll girls basketball program six years ago, she had a vision: make the Lady Dragons into a state powerhouse. 

Morrison joined Southlake Carroll after a decorated stint at Waco Midway that saw her compile an eye-opening 70-7 record and lead the Lady Panthers to victory in the 2008 4A girls basketball state title game.

In her first season at Southlake Carroll, Morrison helped the Lady Dragons capture a district title. Two years later, Southlake Carroll finished the season nationally ranked with a 31-4 mark. More evidence of her success—every year Morrison has been head coach of the Lady Dragons they have been district champions. “I honestly feel like I have the best job in Texas,” Morrison says. “At Southlake Carroll, we might not have a bunch of Division I talent, but we don’t have to coach effort. These girls have great basketball IQs, and they and they work hard. We just have great kids and a great community. I love my job.”

While Morrison has certainly accomplished her goal as far as making Southlake Carroll a perennial power, one thing is still missing—a state championship. Morrison said her goal is to bring one to Southlake Carroll soon.

And that could easily come this year. Southlake Carroll is off to a 20-6 start and has been on an absolute tear over the past couple of months. In fact, this might be the best Southlake Carroll team Morrison has coached since 2012—the year the Lady Dragons finished nationally ranked.

“This team is definitely one of the best I’ve had in my six years here. We play great team basketball,” Morrison says. “Realignment really kicked us this year. We’re going to have some tough opponents in the first two rounds. You look at the districts next to us, and there are teams like Plano West and Flower Mound Marcus—it’s going to be a tough road.”

An outright district title and a playoff appearance seem to be forgone conclusions. But it didn’t exactly look that way when the season tipped off in early November. The Lady Dragons actually lost their season opener to Class 4A power Argyle by 13 points.

Southlake Carroll, however, responded with five straight victories, including an impressive 34-31 grind-it-out win over Arlington Bowie, a team with a ton of talent and pedigree. The Lady Dragons saw their streak snap against Duncanville, which has notched two state championships in the last three years. Still, Southlake Carroll competed well against the Lady Panthers and gained confidence heading into the Nancy Walling Classic in Austin. There, the Lady Dragons took down some of the best teams in central Texas, including Pflugerville and Round Rock Stony Point.

Just a week after the tournament, Southlake Carroll faced yet another tough test—a McKinney North team that advanced all the way to the state tournament a year ago. But Southlake Carroll had arguably its best performance of the year, dominating the Lady Bulldogs, 53-37.

After district wins over Haltom and L.D. Bell, Southlake Carroll took a trip to the West Coast for the Surf N’ Slam Tournament in San Diego. Despite the great weather and awesome beaches, the Lady Dragons remained focused on the task at hand and took home the tourney title to wrap up nondistrict play.

“We learned a lot from our tough preseason schedule. It’s why we are where we are now,” Morrison says. “We faced some great ranked teams like Arlington Bowie, Duncanville and McKinney North. That 20-point win over McKinney North really set the stage. We knew we could compete with any team out there.”

Southlake Carroll returned to Texas and had basically no days off. The Lady Dragons were 2-0 in district and hosted rival Coppell. But Southlake Carroll showed no signs of fatigue in a dominating 62-33 victory.

Euless Trinity, Colleyville Heritage and Richland have all had opportunities as well, but none were able to hand Southlake Carroll its first district loss. The Lady Dragons sit perfectly atop District 7-6A with an unblemished 8-0 record.

So what’s been the key to their success?

“Transition. We’re extremely quick in transition,” Morrison says. “We create easy layups and high percentage shots. We also have a great inside-outside game. Our guard play has been great, too. I would say all three of those things have really helped us win games this year.”

It also helps to have a special player like point guard Kennedy Leonard. The Colorado signee averages 17.1 points, 7.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game, and her senior leadership has been invaluable.

“Kennedy is the best passing point guard in the country,” Morrison says. “She’s great at penetrating and getting to the rim. She’s a great senior leader. She has a high basketball IQ. But what really separates her is her ability to find open teammates.”

As a team, Southlake Carroll shoots 43 percent from the floor and averages 54 points per game. 

 Leonard’s play from her point guard position helps her teammates thrive in this offense. Morrison says guard Natalie Flexer, forward Priscilla Smeengee and post Sarah Williams have all taken big steps this season.

Smeengee, just a sophomore, is the second leading scorer on the team while Flexer and Williams, whom Morrison calls her “secret weapons,” are both key role players and a big reason why Southlake Carroll is in position to make a deep playoff run and win its first state championship since 1975.

Only four games remain—Coppell, Richland, Euless Trinity and Colleyville Heritage—before the Lady Dragons begin their quest.

“At this point, it’s about not beating ourselves,” Morrison says. “Our drills are really competition focused. We just need to hammer the rest of our district opponents and get ready. Like I said, it’s going to be a tough road, but this team can do it.”

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