DUNCANVILLE, Texas --
The slogan for the 2012-2013 Duncanville (Texas)
girls basketball team is "Still hungry, but still humble.''
Those unlucky opponents of the suburban Dallas powerhouse, having been mowed down by an average of 32.7 points this season, will no doubt agree about the hungry part.
Remaining humble, however, that's where it gets tricky. It's made more difficult by the Pantherettes' 38-0 record, not to mention a winning streak that stands at 66 and counting. Duncanville, No. 3 nationally in the Xcellent 25
and No. 1 in Texas since the start of the season, has not lost since Dec. 3, 2011.
Tuesday's 65-29 victory over Cedar Hill in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs brought Duncanville within four wins of successfully defending its 2012 crown in the state‘s largest classification. No Class 5A Texas champion has gone undefeated since Rockwall in 2007.Check out the MaxPreps 2013 UIL girls basketball playoff brackets
The Pantherettes next face Bowie (Arlington, Texas) in a Region I semifinal set for 8 p.m. Friday at Fort Worth's Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center. Duncanville defeated Bowie earlier this season, 66-32.
Could it be that this Duncanville team is actually better than last year's 40-1 version that produced the most lopsided Class 5A title game (69-31 over Houston's Dekaney) in state tournament history?
"This team and last year's team are very special in their own way,'' said Cathy Self-Morgan, the always-diplomatic Duncanville coach. "The biggest difference is we've gotten bigger this season. Last year we were little and we had to depend more on our press.''
Two 5-foot-11 returning starters, junior Ariel Atkins
and senior Kiara Perry
, played on the interior a season ago in what was essentially a five-guard lineup. Both are freed up to roam this season with the addition of 6-2 Antoina Robinson
, an Arkansas-Little Rock signee, in the middle.
Atkins (16.1) and Perry (14.5) lead the team in scoring. Atkins finished with 20 points in the Cedar Hill win and Perry, an SMU signee, pulled down a team-high nine rebounds to go along with eight points.
"There's no doubt that playing inside was great experience for them,'' said Self-Morgan, a four-time Texas High School Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
The other returning starter, 5-6 guard Tasia Foman
, scored three points over her 11-point average.
Graduation claimed two starters from the 2011-2012 team, including guards Empress Davenport and Morgan Bolton. Davenport is now a freshman starter now for the Texas Longhorns.
, a 5-8 senior, has picked up some of the slack in Duncanville's backcourt.
Even with a taller lineup this season, many opponents can match the Pantherettes in height. Few, if any, are as quick. Or as versatile.
Against Cedar Hill, for example, four Duncanville starters connected on at least one 3-pointer. The ball rarely stays in the hands of one Pantherette for very long on the offensive end. Get open and count on the ball coming your way.
Duncanville's quickness is most apparent on the defensive end. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, Cedar Hill's 6-3 senior post Jada Terry scored a combined 43 points. Duncanville's swarming defense held the Texas A&M signee without a field goal on only four attempts.
"We had everybody helping,'' said Atkins, who often swooped in to double-team Terry. "We had to be aware and keep extra pressure on her.''
Jack Morgan, husband of the coach and team scorekeeper, is in the camp of those giving the edge to this year's team. He points to the improvement of the returning players thanks to a vigorous summer campaign.
Self-Morgan said she sees no sign that the winning streak adds pressure to her players.
"The kids just see the next game,'' said the coach, in her 13th season at the school. "They are focused on keeping that zero on the right side of our record. It doesn't matter how big the number is on the left.''
Duncanville fashioned a 134-game winning streak that began in in late 1987 and ended in March of 1991 under Hall of Fame coach Sandra Meadows during a run of three consecutive state titles.
"I told our players when you compare it to 134, our winning streak is not a big thing,'' Self-Morgan said.
Only three opponents have been closer than 16 points to Duncanville at the final horn this season: Lincoln (Dallas), Plano West and Timberview (Arlington).
Timberview, ousted in a third-round playoff game Tuesday by Marcus (Flower Mound), gave Duncanville its closet call, taking the Pantherettes to overtime before losing in a District 7-5A road game, 69-61
Last year's team set the bar very high. As a result, nothing short of a state title, the baseline for any comparison to 2011-2012, will do.
And if Duncanville were to be the first Class 5A school to win consecutive Texas state titles in more than a decade, it will make it really hard to be humble.Watch more videos of Duncanville basketball