The John Tyler girls’ basketball team tries to outclass opponents on a regular basis, relying on players from grades 9-12 while earning a third straight postseason berth, 20-win season and district runner-up finishing.
Girls in all four of the classes contribute to the lineup, including three players set to be honored on Senior Night today in the Lady Lions’ regular season finale: Nola Jackson, Quaneshia Johnson and Tiaka Lee.
Amia Wickware, a 5-9 sophomore forward, tops the Lady Lions in rebounds per game at 7.5. Tameal Jones, a sophomore guard, leads the Lady Lions with 3.2 steals per game.
“It’s a good mixture,” said Wickware, the daughter of Orlando and Charlotte Wickware. “We’re all fast. We can run our opponents. We don’t’ have (much) height, but we just work as a team. We all know our strengths and weaknesses. We just come together and play together.”
Wickware played all season on varsity as a freshman, and mostly on the wing, as did Jones. Freshman Ashtyn Beal plays heavy minutes on the current team, one built around quickness.
“We know we have speed; that’s the advantage we have on everybody since we don’t have a lot of height,” said Wickware, who ranks No. 16 in the sophomore class. “If we can get down the court quicker than everybody, that gives us a better chance.”
With the Lady Lions lacking ideal size inside, Wickware assumed the role as rebounder. She continues to thrive in the assignment, pulling down 10.2 rebounds per game in district. Wickware impacts both ends of the court; ranking first in blocks (1.4) and third on the team in both points (10.1) and steals (2.8).
Lee leads the Lady Lions in scoring (14.0) and steals (3.7), followed by Johnson (10.2) in points per game. Jackson ranks second in rebounding (5.7), with Beal among the team leaders in points (7.1), rebounds (4.3), steals (2.9) and blocks (1.0) and Jones fourth in points (9.2) and second in steals (3.2).,
“I’ve had to step up in rebounding,” said Wickware, whose father, known as “Lumpy” by many, starred in football at JT in the 1980s, returning a kickoff for a touchdown as time expired to cap one of the more memorable contests against Robert E. Lee in 1987.
“We’ve worked on blocking out, playing as a team and finishing, and getting back. That killed us the first round. We’re doing drills to help us get back. And just playing with heart.”
The Lady Lions locked down the second seed with a 52-49 win over Whitehouse last Friday, thanks to Jones’ 3-pointer at the buzzer. The win marked the fifth straight for the streaking Lady Lions, including one over district-champion and state-ranked Lindale.
The Lady Lions look to finish off district with a sixth straight victory and carry the momentum into the postseason, where they reached the area round a year ago.
“We’ve got a good chance,” Wickware said. “We just have to work hand and stay focused, listen to coach (Mike Smith) and not let anything come between us.”
LIONS’ TALES: The Class 4A girls basketball state playoff season begins next week. JT will take on either Red Oak or Mansfield Summit in bi-district. JT beat Corsicana 51-41 in the first girls’ meeting. Corsicana claimed the first game against the JT boys, 60-46, with the Lions playing minus four all-district players taking recruiting visits. …The JT boys play two more regular season games: Friday at Lindale and Tuesday, Feb. 12 at home versus Jacksonville. JT senior forward Fred Ross is slated to play for the U.S. Under-19 National Team today against a World team consisting of international players. The game is set to take place at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex in Austin. Ross was selected to the PARADE All-America team last week.