Girls’ basketball teams from high schools across Texas are on their way to the state championships in San Antonio. Bryan Adams High School in Dallas earned a spot in the Final Four this year.
It happened after coming from behind to squeak out a win over Seguin High School last Sunday. The Cougars' semifinal game is tonight.
The audience at last weekend's Class 5A regional title game in Garland was mostly empty seats.
“We’re an underdog in the city, and we’re probably going to be an underdog in the tournament. So we have a lot of prove,” said Alexxus Gilbert. She’s a senior and shooting guard on the team—one of the top players. GIlbert will play at California State University Bakersfield next year.
For now she’s focused on tonight’s game, the school’s first appearance at the state tournament in 16 years.
“When you go around and someone asks you what school you go to and you’re like Bryan Adams and they say ‘who?’” she said. “I say just ‘come watch us play.’ You’ll see for yourself.”
Beating the odds of dropping out
Three quarters of the students at Bryan Adams are considered economically disadvantaged. The dropout rate is higher than the Dallas ISD average.
Senior Jada Nixon says basketball is one of the big reasons that she stayed in school.
“People expect you to not graduate,” she said. “I kinda had that mindset coming in—it’s just school. But if you want to play, you gotta pass.”
She recalls the first time she got an 80 in one of her classes. “Oh my gosh, this feels good to have good grades!”
Nixon also plans to go to college, pressured by her teammates and her coach.
“For someone to tell me I can go play in college—that means a lot,” she said.
Championships in San Antonio this year
The championship has always been in Austin, but people got tired of competing against South by Southwest for hotels.
It will be Lakula Tilley’s first visit to San Antonio, and she’s sharing her room with her mom tonight.
“I’m kinda a little nervous, but it’s okay. This is my first time going anywhere,” she confessed.
Coach Darren Eubanks has a roster full of seniors this year—nine, in fact. Many have played varsity for all four years, and have been knocked out the tournament in the past. While he wants the title, he also has bigger plans for his girls.
“Win lose or draw, I want them to go to college,” he said.
The girls will keep hearing it from their coach: no hiding your head under your shirt at the end of the game, and no tears this year.
This story is part of KERA’s American Graduate Yearbook Project.