Senior Ireland Sargent making an impact
By Lance Catchings
Last season as a junior shooting guard, Ireland Sargent gained valuable experience on the basketball court.
Approaching her senior year, she knew she needed to build on what she learned. She entered this season not knowing exactly where she would play or how things would turn out. All she knew is that she needed to be ready.
“At the end of the season last year, we knew we only had four returners, so we weren’t even sure who was going to be on our team this year,” Sargent said. “We lost so much from last year’s team and we knew we had to add a lot of new people. Coach Lange had some people in mind he wanted, but it didn’t come to him until we had tryouts. We added new girls and we knew we had to change the style of our team. We are now made up of mainly guards and posts that are not as tall as we had before. We knew we needed to change our plays and the way we ran some of them this year. We knew it would be different, but we believe we can and will do well.”
As one of only a few seniors on the roster, Sargent is becoming very familiar with the definition of leadership. Against China Spring in the second half, Sargent came off the bench to spark her team with three three-pointers in a strong rally that almost won the Lady Panthers the game.
“For as long as I have played basketball at Liberty Hill, I have never had to be a leader,” she said. “We have always had older girls to fill that role. This year, I knew I had to step up and be a leader for my team. I have taken on that role and I am always there to tell my teammates if we work as a unit, we can accomplish anything. Being down against China Spring, I told them we could win if we put our minds to it and accomplish that goal. I knew in the second half we needed to step up and change something, and for the most part, we did. Although we didn’t win, I knew we were close, and I just had to step up and be there for my teammates.”
Leading by example requires many traits, one of which Sargent has learned is patience.
“Some may say that guiding the younger girls along has been frustrating, but from my perspective, I just take a deep breath,” she said. “We have a lot of new girls, so we had to change some of our plays. We also do some of the same plays from last year, so it is about teaching them and having patience. We must be willing to help them out when they need any assistance and be patient.”
Sargent, who is also a talented softball player, made sure to get her practice in at the gym over the summer. She wants to have no regrets after her senior year, so she believed in putting in the hard work day in and day out.
“Leading up to this season, I knew I would be in a leadership role, so I was shooting throughout the summer,” she said. “I would go almost every day to shoot at the gym. Defense is something I have always felt I was pretty good at. Being quick and small has been helpful in that aspect. I go into the games knowing I need to work 10 times harder since this is my last season.”
While many teams may think the Lady Panthers are in a rebuilding year, Sargent doesn’t believe it. Her focus remains on winning district, which has been the Liberty Hill tradition for years.
“We started off pretty rocky, just being a new team and figuring out how to work together has been pretty challenging,” she said. “I am sure teams like Burnet and Lampasas may think they could beat us this year, but we are starting to get the hang of it. We are shooting more outside and knocking down our shots. We are also learning how to create windows outside and feed the post. If we continue to play like we are and progress, our district opponents don’t stand a chance.”
Sargent’s goals have always been to compete at the highest level and represent Liberty Hill in the state tournament. Nothing has changed for her in 2018, and she believes that everything she and her teammates want is still very attainable.
“The only ending I want to my senior year is to win state,” she said. “Last year, that was the goal and we had been before, so we knew we could get back. This year, I hope we can get to state and win. I hope we make it far in the playoffs, but that will always remain my end goal.”
The Lady Panthers went 1-3 in the Jack Frost Tournament last weekend, but Sargent draws on the positives of the experience.
“Overall, I hope we use the Jack Frost Tournament as an opportunity to learn and grow as a team,” she said. “We faced some different teams that will benefit us greatly in the long run. If we continue to grow and work together, it will only make us better.”
Sargent and the Lady Panthers traveled to Pflugerville Tuesday and host Wall Friday at 6 p.m.