PROSPER — At halftime of the bi-district 3A playoff matchup, Ponder led Whitewright 42-18 and was in control of every facet of the game. Their press berated the Lady Tigers into countless turnovers, contributing to the dominant start for the Lady Lions.
But when the halftime buzzer rang, Ponder coach Jimmy Avery and the team did not head to the locker room. Instead, they took a quick break on the bench while Avery spoke before making a beeline to the rack of basketballs on the sideline.
The first one there was sophomore guard Tate Wells.
Wells had 13 points, yet she was clearly irritated after her 3-pointers continued to rim out or miss just long. One after another, Wells hoisted from deep over the break and before long Avery was right by her side. The two spoke for no longer than a minute, but when he left Wells appeared more confident.
The second half included a few more makes for the young guard, but Ponder (23-10) didn’t need much more to put away Whitewright in a 78-47 win Tuesday night at Prosper High School.
“When you’re young you don’t want to be a feel shooter, you want to be a fundamental shooter,” Avery said. “When you’re young and missing, you start guiding and wishing it in instead of believing and trusting what you’re doing, and I [told her], eventually they’ll fall in.”
Wells finished with a team-high 24 points and while sinking two 3-pointers in the second half, holding her follow-through just a little longer than usual. She was back.
While Wells found her footing, it was fellow sophomore star Karley Ivy, who was the consistent force on offense, finishing with 21 points while not scoring in the final quarter.
Fellow sophomore Kassi Ballard scored 16 points to round out the trio in double figures.
“We worked really well as a team and shared the ball,” Ivy said. “We were clicking just like we always do and those nerves got kicked out of the way once we started pressing and got into our routine.”
A lot of the offense was generated from Ponder’s patent full-court press, which Avery credited first and foremost after the win.
Ponder heads into the area playoff round winners of 12 in a row with 11 of those wins coming by 16 or more points. Avery expects to be tested in the second round as his team faces a talented Edgewood team on Friday at 6 p.m. at Naaman Forest High School in Garland.
In this second game without senior Kelley Akins, the emphasis in the coming days is obvious for Avery. Make sure the fundamentals are in place and continue to learn how to play without their lone senior.
“If we want to beat Edgewood on Friday, we have to shoot well,” Avery said. “Also, we’re still learning how to play without Kelley because she was 32 minutes a game and our leader, so the roles have shifted a little bit so we’re adjusting there too.”