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Team synergy fuels Clark's early season success

Experienced Cougars use competitive drive to take control of District 28-6A

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Back on Nov. 10, just five days into the girls high school basketball season, the Northside Tournament featured a clash of District 28-6A powers. In the game, the Clark Cougars came up a bit short against the Brandeis Broncos in the Northside Tournament, 51-45.

Clark has not lost a game since.

Seventeen games and 17 wins later, the Cougars now sit atop the district standings with a perfect 9-0 record.

"Rather than them sulking on it, they used it as an opportunity," said head coach Rihana Houy. "I think that's the great thing about this group -- they're incredibly competitive. They want to do better. They want to figure out where the loopholes are and how they can improve those things. It's a huge blessing that we have with these girls."

"You play a game, and it may not be your best game, but you have to put it behind you because it's all about the team," senior center Kendall Young said. "Here you've got to put things aside and just work for everybody."

The Cougars' competitive edge and early-season success is built upon years of experience with the game and with each other. With six seniors on the roster, the majority of the team has played together for three or more years.

"It helps a lot because, say you're stuck in a certain position you can't get out, you know that Jessie's here on the three-point line ready to shoot and Ta'Niya's cutting and driving," senior power forward Cassie Bell explained. "It's really helpful in those close games, knowing who to give it to, who to trust. Knowing who can finish."

"We can all relate to each other," Young said. "We know each other. We've gone to school together for the past four years. I've known some of these girls since elementary school, and it's pretty amazing just to be able to grow and develop with each other like that."

The results of their familiarity are seen all across the stat sheet. All four of the Cougars' top scorers are seniors -- Ta'Niya Jackson leads the way with 14.4 points per game, followed by Jessica Paz Y Puente (10 ppg), Rachel Lee (7.9 ppg) and Bell (7.5 ppg). Bell and Young crash the boards as well, each tallying 65 or more rebounds on the season, while Paz Y Puente is the main distributor, accounting for 103 assists so far.

"This is a group of girls who not only are incredibly talented, but they're also very diverse, which is a great tool for us to have," Houy explained. "They have great chemistry. They like to score and see each other score. They work hard every day, they make each other better every day, and that's the best piece of it. They're helping each other rise up to their talents."

The Cougars are aware of how special this season has been, but with nine games left in the regular season -- all critical district contests -- the team knows they have plenty left to achieve as the calendar turns to 2019.

"You feel like you're on top, but you still feel humble about it because it comes from hard work and teamwork," Young explained. "That's what really works for us, is that we as a team can build off of each other. We're all positive, but at the end of the day, you sometimes have to make sacrifices to win a game. Thankfully, everyone on this team understands that."

"We just take things one game a time," said Jackson. "We don't think about who we're going to play after. It's all just about that team that we play."

"We meet a goal, and then I raise the bar," Houy said. "We have season expectations, obviously, and we also have individual game expectations. They have a goal board, and we have certain goals we want to meet each game, and they keep that in their focus. I look forward to seeing them improve as the season goes on."

Clark is back in action for their first game of the new year this coming Saturday, Jan. 5, facing Jay at Paul Taylor Field House. The game tips off at noon.


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