Lady Raiders Basketball Team Faces Challenges, Makes Comeback

Diana Villanueva and Kimberlee Lopez

With Regionals approaching fast, the Lady Raiders basketball team is determined. Not starting the season off strong presented a challenge; however, the girls made a comeback in the second half.

“The biggest obstacle has been their individual confidence on the court, they often want to rely on someone else to score or lead the team,” Coach Ludgood said. “When those normal players didn’t play or didn’t have a good game, then we struggled to come together as a team.”

For Coach Candelaria, the biggest challenge has been the length and grind of the basketball season itself (November through February).

“It’s a grind, and it can be hard to stay motivated and locked in during every practice and game after so long,” Coach Candelaria said. “We have to find that balance of not burning our players out too soon, while also not being too lenient and making sure we are engaged and prepared when we need to be.”

The Lady Raiders reflected on how their coaches prepared them for Regionals.

“Coach Ludgood and Coach Candelaria prepared us by making sure our practices are focused and that we get things done the right way,” Karys Washington, 9th, said.

Tariauh Smith Mayes, 9th, agreed that practices helped.

“The coaches kept us late at practice and made us work harder and harder every day,” Tariauh said.

Zyon Johnson, 8th, appreciated that the coaches never gave up on the athletes.

“They know our capabilities and built us into a better team each game,” Zyon said.

Coach Ludgood is most proud of the fight that the girls have shown.

“Games have not always gone their way, but they continue to show up to practice and are willing to work hard during practice,” Coach Ludgood said.

Assistant Coach Candelaria is most proud of the girls’ growth over the season and how they have continued to get better.

“The first half of conference wasn’t as successful as we had hoped, but the second half we have been playing to our potential and playing like the team we knew we were capable of being all season,” Coach Candelaria said. “Multiple girls have stepped up and have earned more varsity minutes that they didn’t have early in the season, and it’s been exciting to see them rewarded for their efforts and contributions.”

The girls committed to being successful at Regionals.

“I will focus more and do what I gotta do to help us win,” Tariauh said.

Like her teammates, Katorie Goolsby, 9th, wants to succeed.

“I will take every rising opportunity to become better,” Katorie said.

Tahleigha Taylor’s goal is to play hard.

“I will be confident, strong no matter what, and keep my head up,” Tahleigha, 8th, said.

Team captain Jakayla Bunch, 8th, will guide her teammates.

“I will help them focus in practice more,” Jakayla said.

Team captain Karys wants to make sure the team does their drills correctly.

“If we do the drills correctly, we can improve our skills for Regionals,” Karys said.

To encourage team bonding after a tough loss, the coaches started doing more competitions.

“We had days where the girls got to pick their teams, and they really enjoyed that aspect of practice,” Coach Ludgood said. “We also encouraged them to go to the Northside home games together. We also attended a UAFS game together.”

Coach Candelaria believes that all players, not just varsity, need to support each program and be there for each other.

“From being at JV and varsity games, the 7th graders saw the increased speed of the game and the raised level of competition,” Coach Candelaria said. “On the flip side, JV and Varsity girls supported the 7th graders who are the future of our program. As a coach, I feel it is refreshing to see the success and togetherness of our program because, at the end of the day, we are all representing Kimmons together.”