Duncanville scary good on Texas courts
Whenever she can, Ariel Atkins tries to catch her Duncanville teammates off guard.
"She usually taps me on my neck," point guard Tasia Foman said of her prank-loving teammate. "You never know where she's coming from."
Opponents of Duncanville (Texas), No. 2 in the espnW 25 Power Rankings with a 34-0 record, can relate.
Whether it's Atkins, the reigning Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, a Texas signee and the No. 4 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2014 class; Foman, a fellow Texas recruit; or Louisiana Tech signee Tiara Davenport, Duncanville has plenty of weapons.
It's kind of scary.
Kind of like when Foman hides behind a door to pay back Atkins with a jolt.
But the real fright comes when rivals have to line up against a team that has won 104 games in a row.
And with two more victories at the Class 5A tournament this weekend in Austin, the Pantherettes will claim their third straight state title.
First up for Duncanville will be Friday's game against San Antonio's Wagner (25-10).
Wagner is a huge underdog, and it's easy to see why. Duncanville's past five playoff wins have been by an average of 39.4 points, and no team has gotten within 20.
Still, 5-foot-4 Foman doesn't sense that opponents are intimidated.
"Everyone is out to get us," Foman said. "I don't think they have it in their minds that they are going to lose."
Perhaps that is true at the start of a game, but it inevitably becomes apparent that Duncanville's streak will march on.
If the Pantherettes carry the streak deep into next season, they could break the state record of 134, which was set by Duncanville's teams from 1987 to 1991.
Those teams, which won three consecutive state titles, were coached by Sandra Meadows, and many of those players have been attending this year's games, rooting for the Pantherettes to break their record.
It's a great tradition, and the players appreciate it -- even if none of them was alive the last time Duncanville had a streak this long.
"We have high expectations here every year," said Duncanville coach Cathy Self-Morgan, who is in her 13th season running the program after a career that included playing for the Longhorns as a 5-9 power forward.
The last time Duncanville lost was Dec. 3, 2011. Plano West beat the Pantherettes that night, 58-50.
"I think about that game more often than not," said Atkins, a 5-11 shooting guard. "Plano West was the first team that zoned us. We tried to shoot our way out of it instead of cutting more and working the ball to the middle."
The winning streak started three days later, but the genesis of this Duncanville team began about a decade ago, when Atkins and Foman met as 7-year-olds. Foman's team beat Atkins' club, and the next day a coach invited Atkins to play with Foman.
They've been together ever since, compiling a 127-1 record since they entered the starting lineup as high school sophomores.
Self-Morgan said intangible qualities are the biggest reasons for the success of Atkins, who leads the team in scoring at 17.6 points, and Foman, who is next at 14.4 points.
"Ariel is the hardest worker I've ever coached, and I've been doing this for 34 years," she said. "I tell her she needs to rest, and she goes out and shoots all day. She doesn't consider shooting as work.
"With Tasia, it's her competitiveness. She is fearless, she can score and she leads our fast break. But if you are playing H-O-R-S-E against her, you are not leaving that gym until she beats you."
Self-Morgan said she will "grieve" after this week. That's how much she will miss Atkins, Foman, Davenport and the three other seniors: junior-college recruits Keyana Smith and Adrianna Davis and undeclared Deandra Wheeler.
If Duncanville wins state this year, the pressure to beat the streak record and win four straight state titles will fall primarily on current sophomores Ciera Johnson, Madison Townley and Korie Leary.
At 6-4 and averaging 7 points and 6 rebounds, Johnson already is getting recruited by big-time teams.
"This is her first year with us, and she has already had a huge impact," Self-Morgan said. "She's getting better every game."
Johnson moved to Duncanville from Red Oak (Texas) after her father got a job as an auto mechanic.
Initially, she felt intimidated by the Pantherettes' win streak.
"I thought it was a lot to uphold," she said. "I was nervous because the girls have already done so much.
"But the girls have helped me out a lot. I'm more confident and comfortable now."
If Johnson and the other sophomores reach their potential, and the Pantherettes continue to attract more talent, perhaps they can even challenge the two winning streaks that rank ahead of Duncanville's 134.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book, Baskin (La.) won 218 consecutive games from 1947 to 1953 and Monetta (S.C.) had a streak of 154 from 1933 to 1940.
"I know we lose six seniors," Johnson said. "But we have plenty of girls coming in from JV and from eighth grade.
"We know what to do now. We all just have to keep on pushing."
If you're a Duncanville opponent, that's really scary.