On any level, the last two seasons have been defining moments for the Heights Lady Bulldogs basketball team. They have posted back-to-back seasons of at least 25 wins and became area-round playoff champions for the first time in school history in 2019-20.
But they could be even more dangerous in the years to come, boasting a roster loaded with young talent hungry to continue their ascent. This year’s team piled up 26 victories before bowing out of the postseason with a loss to Cypress Creek in the program’s first-ever regional quarterfinal Monday night.
Six sophomores – Tatianna Brown, Nevaeh Carrizal, Kamryn Cole, Karla Honorato, Janiaya Johnson and Aaliyah Macias – dotted the 13-player roster this season along with freshman guard Celia Johnson. The most experienced bunch was senior forward Chloe Robinson and a group of five juniors headed up by point guard Gracelynn Alvarez.
“(These young players) are going to be a part of building something big,” Heights head coach Kerrick Arrington said Tuesday.
Arrington, in his 14th year as the Lady Bulldogs’ head coach, said the ability to sustain success is what defines a program.
He touted the leadership of the junior group led by Alvarez and forward Tierra Simon, saying the culture shift began with their class three years ago. The program-building mindset he attempted to instill looks to have taken hold.
Several of the Lady Bulldogs have played together since elementary school.
“They looked at things like, ‘We can go put our own name out there. We could go out and be the first,’ ” Arrington said. “They came over and believed from the get-go that we could make something happen. That’s been the biggest positive here. Now that these girls have taken this program on their shoulders, other people want to come play with them. They want to build something special.”
As with any season, there can be several defining moments that bind a group, especially one as young as the Lady Bulldogs.
Simon pointed out multiple wins against five-time defending district champion Westside on Jan. 17 and Feb. 12 as moments the young squad realized something greater was there for the taking. Heights eventually won the District 18-6A title by one game over the Lady Wolves.
“Winning a district championship, I think, says a lot about our team and how much we’d grown,” Simon said. “(Westside) has always been our rival, and we hadn’t beaten them since I’d been at this school. It just said a lot about who we are.”
For Alvarez and Arrington, another seminal moment in the season came Dec. 28 during the VYPE Holiday Hoops Classic Tournament in Aldine. Down 13 points headed into the final quarter against eventual District 24-6A champion Clear Springs, Arrington gathered the troops with a final message.
“We just looked at each other and said, ‘Keep fighting,’” he said.
And they did. In a furious rally, the Lady Bulldogs outscored the Chargers 28-9 in the fourth quarter to come out with a 70-64 victory over a squad that finished the regular season ranked 25th in Class 6A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
It was a springboard for the rest of the season, Arrington said. Heights lost only once more the remainder of the regular season.
“After that fourth period, I felt like these girls were in a zone where we knew we could compete with these people and compete with anybody,” Arrington said. “All we had to do was keep fighting and we were never out of it. That game right there showed them that we belonged.”
Alvarez echoed the sentiment.
“We weren’t supposed to win that game,” she said. “I think it showed the girls and myself that we could actually come back from anything.”
The ultimate goal is a state championship. As it stands, the stars look to have aligned in Heights’ favor for future runs as the team has 12 potential returnees on its roster.
Should the Lady Bulldogs’ ascent continue, the 2019-20 campaign and their young roster could very well be remembered as the ones that started it all.
“We still have a few steps we need to take,” Arrington said. “But with this group here we’re in a position where we can get other girls of that caliber who want to come in and be part of getting over that hump.”