Surpassing Expectations

Rider girls basketball team flourishes this year


River Morgan

Freshman point guard Ashlynn Knight plays against Iowa Park.

The Lady Raiders basketball team entered the gym last Friday looking for something to prove. 

Earlier that week they suffered a rare loss, but they ended up shattering any doubt they had what it takes to be a top contender for the district title. After knocking off Aledo 52-36 at home on Friday, the girls finished the first half of 4-5A action tied in first place. 

It’s hard to believe that one year ago the team only notched 10 wins, missing the playoffs. Now they’re 24-2 and ranked No. 23 in Class 5A heading into Tuesday’s home game versus Abilene Wylie. 

With a few new faces and lots of experience returning, coach Kendall Webb entered the 2019-20 season with high expectations. It turned out they weren’t high enough. 

“I originally wanted to win 20 games; I was kind of setting that as a goal but we surpassed it,” he said. 

Webb pointed to the Fantasy of Lights tournament title as when the Lady Raiders “realized where we had potential,” setting the tone for a strong season. 

Height is one reason for the high expectations being met. Sophomore Addy Self was the tallest person on the team last year, but now 6-foot-2 freshman Jalynn Bristow and junior Jill Leslie have a few inches on her. 

“We have a lot more people who can shoot,” Self said. “They’ve (Webb’s expectations) increased a lot; he wants us to be ready on defense because he knows that we’re that well-rounded team.” 

Bristow has made an immediate impact, averaging 20.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. She already has one school record, scoring 42 points against Odessa Permian in the Caprock Classic in December. Freshman point guard Ashlynn Knight has also proven to be irreplaceable. 

“It’s really fun there’s only two of us on there, two freshmen on the varsity team and it’s fun being with the older girls,” Bristow said. “They love basketball and their heart is really in the sport, so it’s just that they love to play the game.”

New faces and taller players can be seen inside the gym, but the new air of confidence around the team can be felt off and on the court. 

“I think winning definitely helps that, but I think just the girls getting along. They jelled, whereas last year we were kind of down after every game,” Webb said. “I’m not saying we were bad teammates, but I think just the overall mentality of the losing team can just put a weight on shoulders whereas you win, you get more confidant. I think that’s definitely helped us out this year.”