The early stretch of the 2017-18 season has been a case of the good, the bad and the ugly for the Temple High School girls' basketball team.
But the silver lining for Lady Tiger head coach Latoya Thomas is she's witnessed the potential from this group and is confident that the positives can outweigh the negatives once the calendar flips to Region 5-AA play come Jan. 2.
"The past couple of games have been rough, where we're losing in ways that we shouldn't lose," Thomas said. "We've been preaching about remember your goals, which is to win region. It's an attainable goal. But we've got to fix all of these things."
One of the priorities for Thomas and the Temple coaching staff has been consistency. At times, it's been too up and down and they're wanting to steady the ship during the holiday break following a 2-9 start to the campaign.
"We've got a lot to work on over the break. But I think if we tweak some things from the coaching end and from them being more responsible and accountable, taking care of yourself over the break with conditioning, then I think we'll be able to compete for a region title," Thomas said.
Temple features a mix of upperclassmen with multiple years of varsity experience and young girls who are getting thrown into the varsity fire this winter.
Behind a deep junior class that includes point guard Tori Chivers, shooting guard Mackenzie Holt, twin guards Amiya and Aniya McDaniel, wing Ruby Collins and forward Nicole Queen, Temple has some experience, especially with Chivers, Collins and Holt all as returning starters.
Thomas is looking to see Chivers further embrace that leadership role in running the point, and she said when No. 12 is on her game, the Lady Tigers are a tough out.
"I asked who's going to step up and take that leadership role. Tori has stepped up big for us. She's stepping into more of a leadership role now. Sometimes I don't think she knows that she's a junior. I tell her, 'You're an upperclassmen now.' So when we get her to step up and lead for us, we're going to be a really good team," Thomas said.
The same goes for Collins upon taking a more aggressive approach offensively and becoming the weapon she is capable of game-in and game-out, which has also been a work-in-progress.
"When she plays her game to the level that I've seen her play it, again, we're a much better team. So we're at a place now where we're trying to get her more confident because nobody can guard her when she plays to her full potential," Thomas said.
The Lady Tigers have also seen promise from their younger players, including Esther Jacobson, Indya Price and Didi Lopez in recent weeks.
"We have a couple of freshmen who have been starting for us. It's a lot to ask a freshman to come in and play in a varsity game," Thomas said. "So we work a lot on our press break and not making that first pass, triple threat and a lot of the basics. I think we'll get there."
And now with a few weeks off to get back to fundamentals and gear up for a run in Region 5-AA, the Lady Tigers are hopeful of making a return to the Class AA state playoffs this year and climb the ladder in the league standings.
"It's more mental than anything. We've got to get them in a place where they understand their roles, are confident and we'll be right there," Thomas said.