GIRLS BASKETBALL: YWLA’s first 20-win season ends early

Cardinals ineligible for postseason

AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Young Women’s Leadership Academy.



Young Women’s Leadership Academy finished the season with its best record in its three-year history but, rather than advancing to the playoffs, played its last game before January ended.

The reason that the Cardinals’ season came to a screeching halt Jan. 27, is that they competed as a UIL independent this season. In the previous two years, they were members of District 28-4A.

YWLA (21-12) won far more games than in those years combined, but knew before the season that the postseason was not an option. If the Cardinals had competed in a district, the top four teams would reach the playoffs, but they were outside that structure.

“I’m the kind of person that, if I can’t change that moment,” YWLA coach La Rhon Fields said, “I’ll deal with the hand that’s been dealt.”

Nonetheless, Fields is a little frustrated when he looks at Fox Tech, also a 28-4A member, and other teams in District 26-3A. The Cardinals defeated SAISD rival Fox Tech three times and fashioned a 5-2 record against members of the six-team district.

There’s little doubt that YWLA would have had a good shot to qualify for the playoffs in 26-3A.

“The way it was presented to us,” Fields said, “we could either move up to 5A or go our own way (as an independent). In our three-year history, we had one win (in 28-4A) and we wanted our girls to achieve some success. Fox Tech stayed in and was allowed to choose a level it could compete at, but we were not given the same option.”

YWLA finished 3-25 in 2012-13 in its first varsity season. Last year, the Cardinals were 1-26. In those seasons, they won one of 31 28-4A contests.

They closed this season by winning seven of their last nine games, with TAPPS 2-5A representative St. Anthony responsible for both losses.

Sophomore guard Olivia Balderas currently is the No. 2 scorer in the San Antonio area with a 23.3 average.

Valeria Serenil (6.5 points a game), Julianna Lopez (6.4), Jylian Bolton (5.9) and Karease Williams (5.6) are juniors who stepped up their level of play. Newcomer Meg Garcia became a post presence in her first organized exposure to the sport.

“We’d have liked to be in Class 3A,” Fields said. “We competed mostly against 3A and 4A teams. There’s no doubt there were a couple of teams in 28-5A we could have beaten, but we don’t have the depth to be truly effective against those schools.

“We had a chance in every game. There was not one game we went into thinking we’d be blown out, and we were only blown out once.”

If at all possible, Fields would like to have the chance to reach the postseason next year. He said one option YWLA might investigate is whether TCAL competition is more feasible.

Five of the six Cardinals juniors have participated in three sports throughout their careers and he wants that potential reward to be available to them. He also hopes to play in either a summer or fall league for the first time.

“Our mindset will be, ‘Let’s prove (this) year was not a fluke,’ ” Fields said. “We have to prove ourselves again.”

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