Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Kennedale girls overcome loss of Texas Tech signee Jamaika Hughes, rally around 'this is it' motto
KENNEDALE — Reaching the UIL girls basketball state tournament has special meaning for Kennedale.
One defeat separated the Tarrant County program from a trip to Austin in each of the last three seasons.
Kennedale suffered a setback at the start of this campaign, too, with the loss of Jamaika Hughes. But rather than bemoan the knee injury that has turned out to be a season-ender for the talented guard, the Lady Wildcats successfully found a way to overcome.
Riding a 15-game winning streak, No. 3 Kennedale (30-6) will face No. 18 Smithville (29-7) in a Class 3A semifinal set for 3 p.m. Thursday at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center. The winner will play for the state title at 10 a.m. Saturday against the Krum-Mexia semifinal winner.
The 5-9 Hughes, a Texas Tech signee, suffered a torn ACL during a summer league game. Her six-month recovery has progressed to the point that she can warm up with the team, but she is wary of rushing a return to game action and risking re-injury. Hughes supports her teammates by offering encouragement from the sideline.
“We all needed to step up to get the points Jamaika would have contributed,” said Kennedale junior shooting guard McKinley Bostad. “She wasn’t just a key player. She was our leader, too.”
Autummn Williams, who led Kennedale with 16 points in a 48-45 victory over No. 1 Stephenville in the Region I title game, said doing the little things well is a way to smooth over the loss of Hughes.
“We knew we had to play more as a team,” said Williams, a 5-9 senior guard/forward. “Our defense had to be better, and we needed to look for the open person more on offense.”
Jamaika’s dad, Vance Hughes, in his seventh season as Kennedale coach, held out hope until recently that his daughter might be able to contribute in the playoffs.
“The doctor cleared her as long as she went 65 to 70 percent,” said the coach, “but she doesn’t know any way to play but 100 percent.”
The coach said his team really began to hit its stride last month with the arrival of point guard Taryn Johnson, a 5-6 senior transfer from Mansfield Legacy.
“Bostad had been playing the point, and that allowed her to go to her normal position of shooting guard,” the coach said. “It also allowed Travanti Downes to go back inside.”
Another factor in Kennedale’s drive to state, according to vocal leader Downes, one of six seniors on the roster, is a sense of urgency.
“Our season motto is ‘This is it,’” Downes said. “This is the last tournament we are going to play together. And we aren’t satisfied just to get here.”