Written by SportsDayDFW.com
For Duncanville girls, another state title would continue long tradition at the top
DUNCANVILLE — Just a few steps into the gym, a building named after a coach who won 906 games, the trophy cases await, filled with championship plaques, photos of triumphant players spanning generations and cut-down nets.
It’s almost too much to take in at once.
On the court, the menagerie of tradition begins to make more sense. It is measured. Seven red banners hang for seven state titles. Wooden boards fastened on the walls proclaim the state-tournament years, district championship years and regional tournament years, and that last one doesn’t even tell the whole story because it only fits 30 seasons.
“I need to get us a new board to add the last two years,” coach Cathy Self-Morgan said.
This is Duncanville girls basketball, where the story, already so rich, is never complete. Case in point: The team is back at the state tournament, its 21st time, playing today against Houston Cypress Falls, another dream season within its grasp.
“The school has changed,” Self-Morgan said. “It’s gone from a smaller 4A, 5A school to a huge school. The clientele has changed, the culture has changed, but the city of Duncanville is still small and expects the girls basketball team to win.”
Starting in the 1920s
Her name is on the arena, but Sandra Meadows did not create Duncanville girls basketball. She molded an already valuable material into the product we see today.
In the 1920s, the girls started playing basketball in Duncanville. Games took place after school on dirt courts, the lines drawn with limestone. The backboards were made of wood. The rims lacked nets. Spectators crowded around in cars, their glowing headlights illuminating the action
Duncanville merely played back then. It didn’t win championships — basketball was not yet organized by the state — but it adopted a working-class style, instilled by volunteer coach Van Smith, and the community loved watching the team play. When Smith died, a thousand people were said to have attended his funeral.
Bill Grounds followed Smith as coach, and he was given the gift of twins Fay and Ray Wilson. Behind those two, in 1951, Duncanville won the Southwestern AAU tournament in Fair Park. It advanced to the first state tournament.
“That set the standard,” Grounds once said.
Soon Sandra Meadows took over as coach. She would earn 743 of her 906 victories at Duncanville and four state titles. She helped Duncanville adopt the Southwestern Tournament.
During one of those tournaments, Duncanville defeated a 1A school from southern San Antonio. But the team’s fight impressed Meadows. She visited them at the hotel afterward , congratulating them, telling them they worked as hard as anyone. One of those girls she spoke to was Cathy Self. From that day on, she realized Duncanville meant something, that it served an ambassadorial role, one predicated on success as well as comportment.
Those cast with sustaining the tradition this year are girls like Empress Davenport, Morgan Bolton, Tasia Foman and Ariel Atkins.
Davenport and Atkins have spent most of their lives in Duncanville. Atkins started attending the high school’s basketball camps in second grade. Davenport has gone to the games for years.
Back then, the girls on the team were stars to them, but that was because they were big, larger than their elementary school lives. Davenport and Atkins made varsity as freshmen.
Personal expectations, coupled with compassion, flooded their way. They remember the crowd, its size and the way it cared, the way the fans knew them beyond their jersey numbers.
The attention is not pressure. It’s something else. To them, a mix of pride and class and enjoyment that spurs them to remember everyone who was playing at this same ridiculously high-level long before they did and the confidence to realize they belong in that same decorated gym.
“I look at the banners every time I go into the arena,” Davenport said. “We are the next ones.”
6: State championships
21: State tournament appearances
32: Regional tournament