Pictured is #3 Rheagan Sanford
The 2020-2021 Lady Bulldog Basketball season came to a close on Saturday, February 13th as Waldron dropped a heartbreaker to the Paris Lady Eagles in the first round of 3A-4 Districts. Similar to the rest of 2020, this season has looked very different with many new obstacles for the ladies to overcome.
“This whole year has just been tough on our program. We finished the year well last year and didn’t get a chance to really ride that momentum throughout the off-season, summer, and pre-season. I was so proud of the way our kids competed all year long though, most games we were short-staffed due to COVID issues or injuries, but that didn’t deter them from showing up every game and playing their tails off,” Waldron Lady Bulldogs coach Josh Atchley said.
The Lady Bulldogs finished with a 4-20 record and was 2-12 in the 4-3A conference. Led by senior guards Kadance Espinoza, Rheagan Sanford, and Jessica Ozuna, Waldron’s girl’s basketball program is showing signs of improvement and growth. “Our record might not show it, but these 3 seniors have been a HUGE part of the road work we are trying to lay throughout our program. The kids we have from 7th grade up really look up to these 3 and how they show up every day and put in the work.”
Kadance Espinoza transferred in before her junior year to Waldron and didn’t know if she wanted to play or not and when she made the decision to join the team, she sold out. “Kadance decided to play and once she did she put her whole heart into it every day. Never has she been someone we have to worry about on or off the floor about adding value to our team. I am so appreciative of Kadance and everything she has given us.” Defensively Kadance has active hands averaging over two deflections and one steal a game, as well as adding nearly four rebounds a night for the Lady Bulldogs.
Another senior who has been a two-year starter for Waldron is Jessica Ozuna. Ozuna led the team in free throw percentage and proved to be a reliable hand the past two seasons. “Jessica and I are the only two that have been a part of this together for the last three years, and I am very thankful for her sticking with it. She has made strides to increase her confidence throughout her career and I hope she continues to do so long after she leaves here. Jessica is the only person who can hold Jessica back.”
The final senior on this year’s squad is Rheagan Sanford. Sanford led the team in numerous stat columns including finishing the year with 43 steals and 40 turnovers. “Rheagan and Kadance were the only two we had play every game this year. Rheagan has had to carry a lot of weight for us over the last two years and she has done a great job with it. Rheagan stepped away from the game after Jr High but decided to re-join us before her junior year and I am so glad she did. As a coach, you really need your one guard to process the game the same way and Rheagan developed a very good basketball IQ for whatever the situation called for.”
Those seniors also relied on a strong foursome of juniors to assist them throughout the season. Molly Richmond, Summer Imperiali, Bianca Hinojosa, and Hailey Stidman all were huge contributors to this year’s Lady Bulldog squad. “Molly added length defensively and rebounded the ball well. She dug herself out of a mid-season slump and played very well for us down the stretch. Summer’s role expanded this year and she did a good job with it. We are still working on her being aggressive within that role. Bianca has a really good shot and it took a while for her to find it this year but she finished the year really shooting the ball well. Our team had to rely on Hailey a ton last year and even more this year. She has come a long way and we are excited for all of our juniors to progress for their senior campaigns.”
The sophomore Lady Bulldogs had to fill new roles this season from their past years in Jr High. COVID protocol had the Waldron ladies squad depleted for much of the non-conference season and the sophomores really stepped up to fill those shoes. “Early on in the season, we had to rely on some big minutes from sophomores Jinjer Ward, Hazel Buesing, Ali Johnson, Vivian Holmes, and Allyson Dye. All of them did some really good things for us and showed up every day in practice and competed their tails off. This group, as a whole, has seen numerous obstacles throughout their careers and have done a great job of staying the course and continuing to work hard.”
“Hopefully we can have a full off-season and summer to prepare for next year and look forward to seeing these girls continue to grow their games. We will miss this year’s seniors and wish them all the best in whatever they choose to do. Go Dogs!”
Photo courtesy of Sandy Tull