NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack basketball team has proved it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
The women began conference with a win, then went through a five-game losing slump.
"Obviously there was some doubts. We were looking at the standings and I think at one point we may have been at the very bottom of those standings," said first-year head coach Mark Kellogg.
"It was rough. We were like 'Oh my goodness. How are we going to get this turned around?'" said senior Taylor Schippers. "We did and it was pretty amazing."
It was an incredible turnaround for the Ladyjacks who were determined to not let their season slip away from them.
The Ladyjacks ended up winning 11 of their last 12 games. That stunt included a conference-leading 10-game win streak.
"I think we just needed a start. Sam Houston was our start and then we just kept rolling," said Schippers. "Confidence came, we started practicing better, all those things play into it."
"When we got back to practice that next day and we laid out this is what we want to do. We had goals set out for what we wanted to do to get wins," said junior Taylor Ross. "We worked hard in practice and got it done."
It's been a year filled with adversity through season-ending injuries, new coaches, a fresh style of play and for Kellogg, a season that's thrown curveballs he's yet to experience.
"It's just been one of those years. We've had to overcome all sorts of adversity in a lot of different ways and we're getting challenged in many ways," said Kellogg. "I've been doing this 15-16 years and I haven't seen some of the stuff we've seen this year. I'm proud of the group we've been able to battle through."
"I feel like it made us value wins more. I think with us being young and not as mature, we have three seniors and I feel like we did need that," said Schippers.
All that matters now is that the team is playing their best basketball yet during a season where it counts most.
"I think it's pretty tough because having back-to-back loses, most teams would have got down and would say 'We have no chance,'" said Ross. "Going into the tournament, I think it set us up pretty well to know we fought this hard so we need to keep going and keep pushing through it."
The Ladyjacks will enter the tournament with the No. 3 seed and have bye into the quarterfinals. Their game will be Friday at the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy starting at 1:30 p.m.