The Angelo State Belles women’s basketball team is coming off of a magical 2015-16 season. It was one that saw them not only improve themselves by 15 wins from the season prior and make the NCAA tournament, but pull off a first-round win as well. This season the bar has been raised higher, and thus far, the Belles have responded.
Head coach Kevin Baker was called upon to rejuvenate the program, a lofty task coming off of a nine-win season in 2014-2015. When the Belles put their new man in charge for the 2015-16 season, he hit the recruiting trail. He found their new star shooter at Sam Houston State in Taylor Dorsey.
“The main thing that lured me into Angelo State was Coach Baker and Coach Shippy,” Dorsey, the Belles senior guard, said. “Talking to them, I knew they were excited about the season. They were excited about the team, and they really cared about every young lady on our team. That’s what really made me want to come here, how much they cared about the players.”Dorsey would become the go-to player in their offense, leading the team in points behind an impressive 16.7 points per game average. In just one season, Baker, Dorsey and the new look Belles jumped from the cellar to a 24-win team, taking down their first Lone Star Conference Tournament Championship in a decade.
“It was honestly the best experience of my life,” Dorsey said. “To be a part of such a great program, to have such a great coach to turn around a program that was pretty much terrible the year before into a winning program all in one year was exciting.”
They quietly headed into the NCAA tournament, a bit under the radar as the fifth seed in the South Central Region. Once again, they did the unexpected, picking up a first round win against Colorado School of Mines. They would face Lubbock Christian — who would go on to become national champions — in the second round, where their season ended sourly behind a 29-point loss.
“It definitely made us more motivated,” Dorsey said. “Lubbock Christian was a great team last year, and they were a great opponent for us to play. It was a great teaching tool for us to see how we have to play to be the national champions. They set a great example of what type of team you have to be at the higher level.”
One year later, this team is no longer “new." It is no longer a work in progress. It is a seasoned team, led by four seniors who have the prize in their sights.
“We have high expectations for our team because we did such great things last year,” Dorsey said. “Our four leaders are the four seniors on the team. It’s all of our last season, so we know that it’s all or nothing for us. We definitely all want to play as long as we can.”
This season— Dorsey especially— is off to a hot start. The Belles are 6-0 heading into Thursday’s LSC show with Midwestern State. Dorsey is currently leading the LSC in scoring at 21.8 points, a mark that finds her in the nation’s top ten. It doesn’t stop with Dorsey, however, as the Belles as a whole are leading the LSC in scoring, putting up 81.2 points a night.
“We were all new playing with each other last year,” Dorsey said of the hot start. “This year our chemistry is way better. I work out a lot more than I did last year on my game on my own, both outside of the gym and in practice.”
What’s more impressive is that despite leading the team in scoring, Dorsey also leads her team in assists. It is the unselfish character of this team, as five players find themselves in double-digits.
“Everyone on our team is selfless,” Dorsey said. “My teammates find me, and I find them. Every one of the 13 players on our team can score. It’s all about getting the right shot, the good shot and finding the open teammate. I feel like we all do that well for each other, finding each other where we are most successful at.”
West Texas A&M was the powerhouse of the LSC. They had won the previous two consecutive LSC titles, and Angelo State knew, if they ever wanted to change anything, they would have to beat the best to become the best. They did just that, defeating the Lady Buffs — currently No. 17 in the WBCA Poll — three times last season en route to the LSC title.
“Every game is important,” Dorsey said. “Me, personally, I definitely look forward to the West Texas A&M games. I know it’s going to be the best played game in the conference, between two great programs.”
The Lady Buffs aren’t on the schedule until mid-January and then again in mid-February. For now, the Belles have to stay focused and take every day as the next biggest game as they continue to lay their stake as the best of the LSC. If any coach can do that, it’s Baker, someone’s whose magical touch has made the No. 7 Belles a team that nobody wants to play in such a short time.
“He’s honestly the best coach I have ever played under,” Dorsey said. “He’s a very smart man, and he knows what he he doing. I respect him highly. I love playing for him and wouldn’t want to play for anyone else.”