What them worry?
Make no mistake, Desert Vista girls basketball coach Rachel Proudfoot and her team are taking their recent stretch plenty seriously. Losing six of seven games will do that to you – no matter how good you are, no matter what the preseason expectations.
But it’s not so much the simple fact that Desert Vista has hit a skid as of late; it’s how the Thunder are losing – or rather just not winning – that gives Proudfoot and some of her players, like sophomore standout Simone Westbrook, a bit of a different perspective.
“It’s just a matter of finding a way to put it away … to finish. We have to make smarter decisions in the end,” said Proudfoot, whose team, just one month ago, was 12-0, owned a championship trophy from the Prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions, and sat as the top-ranked big-school squad in the state.
Now, the Thunder are 13-6, with five of those defeats coming by seven, one, one, three and four points during that stretch, capped most recently by last Friday’s 52-48 loss to Fiesta Region counterpart Phoenix Xavier.
Westbrook takes a glass half full approach when looking back at the last string of games since the Thunder’s torrid start, but even she admits that’s not the easiest thing to do.
“We really are that close,” said the team’s leading scorer at more than 17 points per game. “We’re still early enough in the season. We have some time to develop.
“It’s the little things,” she added. “One more rebound could lead to one more point. And that’s what we’re losing by.”
Westbrook acknowledges that recent losses to Xavier, Chandler and Chandler Hamilton, aren’t all bad, considering the teams are set to roll through the second round of region games over the next three weeks, thus giving the Thunder an easy chance at redemption.
On the other hand, Westbrook also acknowledges that the Thunder might have peaked too high, too early this season, and are just now finally seeing everything catch up to them.
“Beating Gilbert was definitely the Pinnacle of our season,” she said of the 11-point Desert Vista win in the team’s third game of the season. “But I think we definitely let it go to our head, thinking, ‘OK we’re No. 1 now.’ “We let ourselves get complacent as a team.”
It’s fair to comprehend how that game may have taken on a different meaning for the Thunder – even Proudfoot would agree. The last time the teams played, it was last season’s state quarterfinals with a trip to the big arena and the state semis. Gilbert won that matchup, 60-57 in overtime, with Westbrook fouling out late, ending Desert Vista’s season.
“That game meant so much to us,” Westbrook said. “It was a big game for everyone.”
Now, looking beyond the Gilbert win and toward a playoff berth, Westbrook and her coach agreed that the recent lack of success is something the Thunder hope to use as a rallying cry toward enacting more revenge – this time on those pesky Fiesta region opponents.
“We get a second chance now. That’s what region is all about. We get a second chance to go after these teams.”