Everything on the line; Lady Troopers face Franklin for district lead

In what could prove to be the district championship game, the Lady Troopers will take on the Franklin Cougars on Jan 19, 2018, 7:30 pm at home in the Bob Lesley Gym. Franklin suffered their first loss in district play on Tuesday Jan 16, against third-ranked Pebble Hills. The girls are 25-2 on the season, with an early loss to Andres in the preseason, and the other to Franklin in the first round of district, leaving both teams at 7-1 and tied for the district lead.

The  riding a four-game win streak, defeating Montwood 43-35  last week and another win against the El Dorado Aztecs 43-37 on Jan. 17. Head Coach Jennifer Rodgers believes this may be the biggest game of the season, but has concerns.

"We've gotten a little too comfortable and we've gotten a little bit too sloppy," Rodgers said, "We've been trying to be a little too fancy. We're working on it.  This game puts us in first if we win, but from here on out we have to win every game. Even though this is a big game the team is keeping things normal and is going to leave it all on the floor.

Rodgers believes that despite the team not playing their best basketball right now, the attitude is there, and the team expects to come out with a win.

"First of all, our mindset is really good," Rodgers said, "We haven't been playing our best, but we're playing well enough to win. Our practices haven't really changed much-- we're keeping it normal. Of course, there's always that extra step you take to prepare. Other than that we're not going to do anything extra special than go in their and play our little butts off."

The players feel they are ready, too.

Senior point guard Desarea Luna-Villanueva, who has been battered throughout the season, went down with a slight injury in the game against El Dorado, but expects she will be suited up come Friday.

"If I rest a lot today, I should be fine," Villanueva said on Thursday, "As long as my body feels fine. I'll be good.

We just have to defensively do better." Last game we weren't hitting any shots. Which is rare for us. But we all have those games. Being home will help us even more. We already know we're capable of beating them."

Senior forward Kaylee Martinez is ready for the game. She agrees with Villanueva's comments about offense and defensive efforts being critical in the game.

"It'll affect us a lot just because Desarea is our main point guard and part of the starting five," Martinez said, "That doesn't mean it will affect the way the game will go. We have to make our shots and play good defense. And we can win this game."

The game will predictably be a physical, intense one. Last week against the Rams the Troopers played a rough physical game.

Desarae Luna-Villanueva gets fouled from behind on an attempted chase down

Just before the half, Villanueva, took a hard foul and briefly left the game, but returned wearing a protective mask.

The third and fourth quarter of that game saw both teams scrapping on the floor and down low for every loose ball as Montwood desperately tried to upset the Troopers. Late in the fourth Villanueva threw the mask off and began to play with a new tenacity. Dancing around her defenders, drawing more fouls, and dishing out nearly invisible passes

After the mask came off Villanueva was dishing passes to cutters and beating her defenders.

on tight passing lanes.

With nearly every player of both rosters scrapping on the floor and diving for loose balls. Senior guard Danielle Blackmon thought the team played well against the aggressive play something team needs work on.

"We learned how to be tougher so we could come out stronger against them," Blackmon said, "We have played worse against physical teams. We have to learn how to handle it."

Rodgers is expecting a packed house and her and the team is ready to bring home the District title.Hopefully, the Troopers can hand the Cougars their second loss and continue their dominant season. They will be playing Fri Jan 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm at home in the Bob Lesley gym.

Photos by junior Ethan Voight.