MIDLOTHIAN — Multisport standout Ally Andress of Glen Rose can do a lot of things extremely well, excelling in volleyball, basketball and track and field for the Lady Tigers.
Last Friday night she added to her long list of “Hold my Gatorade” moments.
Andress not only avoided fouling out despite picking up four fouls in a dismal first half of play at Midlothian Heritage, she finished with a school-record 33 points to help lead the Lady Tigers to a 47-28 triumph over the second-place Lady Jaguars.
“She’s a great leader. That’s how leaders respond,” GRHS girls head coach Ramsey Ghazal said of Andress, who leads the team with a scoring average of 22.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
The 31-1 Lady Tigers, who finished off a perfect District 8-4A slate (12-0) with Tuesday night’s win over Alvarado, are No. 2 in the state in both the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll and the Texas Girls Coaches Association rankings.
Andress also averages 2.8 blocks and 2.7 steals per game for Glen Rose, which has won 20 consecutive games going into the playoffs.
Andress said that she had a great-grandmother, Darlene “Tex” Nabors, who played on a women’s professional basketball team for a few years, starting in about 1939.
She played on a team called the All-American Redheads.
Andress noted that she plays the same position — forward — as her great-grandmother did.
“I think about it sometimes,” Andress said. “I wish I could have seen her play.”
It’s likely that Ally’s great-grandmother would have enjoyed watching her play at such a high level, as well.
Ghazal, now in his 18th season as a head basketball coach, earned the 400th victory of his career last season.
Andress said the Lady Tigers had been struggling before Ghazal was hired as the girls coach.
“We have more confidence now,” Andress said. “Coach Ghazal completely changed the (basketball) program. It’s a huge blessing that he is here. He is not afraid of telling us what we’re doing wrong.
“He tells us we’re a really special team. We work really hard in practice. We go over it, over and over again until we get it right. He is a perfectionist.”
PIECES IN PLACE
Now, in his third season coaching the Lady Tigers, Ghazal has a team that may have all the pieces necessary for a state championship.
Andress, a 5-11 all-state performer in both volleyball and basketball, is an obvious target for opposing defenses. Some teams concoct special schemes, such as the box-and-one defense, aimed at limiting her scoring.
But the Lady Tigers have other players capable of stepping up offensively, Andress noted after her 33-point scoring performance in Midlothian, which broke her own record set just last season, that she really does not mind not being the top scorer in any game.
“It’s all about team effort,” said Andress, who won the 2017 state high jump title and recently signed her letter-of-intent for track with Texas A&M. “I’m so proud of everybody on the team. We all know what to do. We all know each other’s tendencies.”
Andress revealed that she will likely try to play basketball for A&M as a walk-on.
“I’ll give it a try,” Andress said.
MORE INJURIES THAN LOSSES
Ghazal has been using only seven players on the varsity squad, although that number will expand for the playoffs starting next week, with the close of the junior varsity season. He had to contend with the loss of three varsity players to season-ending injuries.
Ghazal noted that it has been difficult for those players — Grace Presley (a starter), Cora Dodson and Collie Keller — to watch from the sidelines as the squad set a school record for victories in a season, as well as capturing the first outright girls basketball district title since 2005.
“It’s not easy for them to watch,” Ghazal said. “They had worked hard. They’ve got to keep their heads up.”
The current starters — seniors Sydney Lozier, Kashanna Bryant and Andress — along with Hailey Ibarra and Breanna Baker, get great support off the bench from senior Laiken McAnear and Emma Sheffield.
Lozier has set all-time GRHS girls basketball records for assists (last season) and 3-pointers made (eight this season). Recently, Ibarra set a school record for steals in a game.
“You can’t have a great player without great players around her,” Ghazal said of the squad.
He noted that having Lozier and Ibarra — “two of the best assist girls in our history,” Ghazal stated — helps enable Andress in her scoring.
“All those things play into Ally’s success,” Ghazal said. “Ally’s great at scoring, but if we had five Allys, we would not be a very good team.
“Bree Baker and Kashanna don’t need the ball in their hands to have a great game. Bryant sets great screens, and she’s our best team defender. Laiken gives us another player that can score.”
During a recent spell of illness for McAnear during district play, the Lady Tigers played with just six players — and still won with ease.
When McAnear was sidelined, Baker stepped up to averaged 13 points per game.
Ghazal said Baker is “one of the best perimeter defenders in the district.”
“This is really the most resilient team, that’s overcome adversity,” Ghazal said, noting that the Lady Tigers have been impressive in every game since the Christmas break.
The Lady Tigers will start their run at a possible state championship on Tuesday when they travel to Fort Worth Castleberry High School for their bi-district contest. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.