The Kingwood Park girls basketball team made an impressive run this year, wrapping up the season 24-0 after a 58-35 win against Porter. The undefeated squad now heads to the playoffs to face Magnolia in the first round on February 12th.
The team has earned several honors including the Allegiance Bank Team of the Week award from H-Town High School Sports and VYPE on February 8th as well as a second-place ranking on the February 8th Texas Association of Basketball Coaches UIL 5A poll.
As they prepare for their first playoff game of the season, the Panthers are focusing on a few key aspects of their game.
The team has felt strong chemistry on and off the court all season long. Head coach LeighAnn Wolfe attributes their ability to get along to much of their success, "when faced with adversity and tough situations on the court." The squad is strong, displaying a "balanced approach" to the game.
Wolfe looks back on two games in particular as key moments to the perfect season. The girls slipped past New Caney in an away game, winning by only two points in one of their tightest games of the season. The other closest game was also against New Caney, where the two teams coincidentally posted the same score as the game less than a month earlier, Kingwood Park's 36 to New Caney's 34. In late February the Panthers recorded another close 38-34 victory against Lake Creek. Wolfe believes that they were, "faced with some adversity" and remembers it as a big game for the team, as the girls really, "stepped up for [them] to help [them] get the big win."
Another pivotal point for the Panthers was clinching the district championship title. In the history of the school, the Kingwood Park girls basketball squad had never before earned the title outright, so this season meant a lot. Wolfe is still, "not sure that going undefeated has really sunk in for the girls."
The Panthers move forward patiently, setting their sights on one game at a time. They are working on "executing [their] gameplan," focusing on their skills and utilizing scouting reports to get ready for Friday. They are "excited for the playoffs and ready to make a deep run." Wolfe places the focus leading into the playoffs on, "what [they] can control and fine-tuning what [they] have worked so hard for all season."
The Panthers advance to the playoffs as a confident, prepared squad. Kingwood Park heads to The Woodlands High School on Friday to face Magnolia in the first round.
The Kingwood Mustang football program was not spared from a rocky 2020. In late January, before much of the chaos came about, eight-season head coach Barry Campbell announced that he had accepted a coaching position at Belton High School. Highland Park's defensive coordinator Cale Melton took over and led the Mustangs through the 2020 season for his first year at Kingwood.
Taking the helm in the midst of the pandemic, Coach Melton had unusual obstacles to overcome. The 2020 offseason was stopped in its tracks by the pandemic, and even when the team was able to get together in the summer, training was riddled with COVID-19 related struggles and restrictions. They improvised and stayed connected through position group and full team Zoom meetings and sent out at-home workouts weekly over Twitter and Google Classroom.
The coaches did not get to work with the players in-person until the second week of June. Summer practice was extremely calculated, requiring plans for things like capacity requirements, equipment cleaning, and player arrival. In the midst of it all, the team also had to shut down in-person practice and resume again two weeks later.
Though it was complicated, Melton looked back gratefully at the opportunity to work with players over the summer, saying "it was a grind, but it was worth it!"
The coaching staff is working hard to build a culture similar to their vision statement. They hope to support athletes to be, "champions in the classroom, champions on the field, (and) champions in [their] community and society." Melton says they value, "loving one another and building lasting relationships." The main goal of the staff is to show the athletes that their mission is bigger than football and that they, "care more about who they are and what they become." Commitment, enthusiasm, mental and physical toughness, teamwork, integrity, and tradition are the core values that lay a foundation for the atmosphere of Kingwood football.
The team got off to a less than ideal start to the 2020 season, but they pulled together and closed it out with two wins, ending up with a 2-8 overall record. Melton feels that the Mustangs, "kept believing in each other and trusting the process" as the season progressed, getting better every week.
Kingwood had 32 graduating seniors this season. Melton believes they, "help lay the foundation for [their] football program and where [the team is] wanting to go." He praised them for giving, "everything they had and trust[ing] the process" through the highs and lows.
As they look to next year, the Mustangs hope to improve as a team. A major difference for the 2021 offseason is the ability to have more of a united offseason.
The team is currently going through 'Stang Maker', a program designed to focus on strengthening mental toughness, leadership skills, discipline, and enthusiasm. Stang Maker typically lasts three to four weeks. Melton says, "it is about building mental and physical toughness, building a bond and accountability." He says the "leaders start to rise to the top," revealing who is "all in." On a typical day, the players go through four ten-minute stations. The stations each have eight exercises or lifts and the players are required to memorize the exercises in order by the end of the second week. Memorization, motivation, and enthusiasm are three of the main focuses throughout the program. For Melton, it is about the players, "hav[ing] enthusiasm and learn[ing] how to motivate each other in a positive way."
Through the rest of the offseason, Melton plans on setting up for success with more training in the weight room and on the track, building strength and speed for a solid foundation, working on football skills later in the spring to refine throwing, catching, and footwork.
Kingwood looks to the 2021 season with optimism, preparing to compete once again in District 21-6A, one of the most difficult for high school football in Texas.