Gators put bite in defense

Begin quest for 3-5A title

Darrell Washington and the LaGrange Gators have made major strides on the defensive end of the court.

Rick Hickman

Dedication to defense has paid off for the LaGrange Gators.

After going 12-17 last basketball season, the Gators are 20-7 under secondyear head coach Jason Wilson. The Gators have won seven consecutive games while holding opponents to 57.9 points a game.

“The most impressive thing is how we have been able to play our defense,” Wilson said. “That is what we work on a lot.

“That was probably the most difficult area that we had to get them to buy in on is defense and rebounding the ball. When I go to practice now, defensive drills is what they want to do the most. That is the area that I have noticed in this little run. We really try to get after you on defense.”

LaGrange has lost once when holding opponents to fewer than 55 points.

The Gators’ go-to defensive player is 5-foot-7, 140-pound senior Donald Wilson.

“He (Wilson) is not real big, but it starts with him,” Wilson said. “He sets the tone at practice and he sets the tone in the game.

“We are going to put him on the best guard and he gets the job done. This is my 11th year coaching and he is the best on ball defender I have ever coached. The kid just has a knack for it. He has great defensive instincts.”

LaGrange will travel to play crosstown rival Barbe (17-6) tonight to start its quest to become the first Lake Area school to win the District 3-5A title since the Gators were able to accomplish the feat in the 2010-2011 season.

“That is something that we definitely can use,” Wilson said. “It would be good for one of the Lake Area teams to win it (3-5A). It is overdue. It is funny that we were the last to do it. Hopefully, we can right the ship and get the title over on this end.

“Going into district, it is a new season. Everybody is 0-0. We just have to take what we have done and use that as motivation and just build off of it.”

LaGrange won last year’s matchup 79-77, but Wilson said he doesn’t expect it to dictate the outcome of this season’s game.

“Last year we jumped on them early and (the Bucs) were able to fight back in the second half,” Wilson said. “Who knows? They could jump on us or we could jump on them.

“It’s Barbe and LaGrange, an old-time rivalry, so both teams are going to be up for it. Both of us have had some pretty good success this year. I expect it will be a good game like it was last year.”

Wilson said he has been impressed with the Bucs’ defense.

“They get after it on that (defensive) end,” Wilson said. “They play a 2-3 zone for the most part. It is not going to be new to us, but they are going to get after it.”

Barbe is on a seven-game win streak and is coming off a 60-55 overtime win over Sam Houston, led by junior forward Rodney Pete’s 20 points, all in the second half.

“Rodney Pete is going to be a handful to deal with,” Wilson said. “He is real active. He rebounds the ball well and runs the floor well. He does a lot of good things for their ballclub, and it starts with him.”