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Duncanville High's Buoy In A Sea Of Change: A Victorious Basketball Team

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
Head coach Cathy Self-Morgan gives her team high-fives after practice at Duncanville High School.

Through demographic and economic changes over the years, Duncanville High School, in a suburb south of Dallas, has maintained one constant — a winning girls basketball team.

The Duncanville Pantherettes are heading to San Antonio this week in search of their 10th state basketball title.

During a recent game, Cathy Self-Morgan was leading her Pantherettes to another lopsided win. At the time, their record was 37-2. In Duncanville, that’s almost a low-performing year. Last season, the Pantherettes were undefeated.

Self-Morgan arrived here 17 years ago already a champion with three state titles under her belt at Westlake High, near Austin. She wasn't expecting to leave Westlake.

“I thought my ashes would be buried there," she said. "I had been there 22 years.”

Self-Morgan’s Austin suburb was mostly white, and so is she.

When the coach moved to Duncanville, the team was racially mixed. She points up to her office wall – pictures of every team she’s coached. They start more white than black, then they are all black. Now, with a booming Hispanic student population, there’s a Latina starter.

The fundamental change, however, isn’t race.

“My biggest challenge is making sure these kids are fed," Self-Morgan said. "And making sure they have warm clothes when it’s cold and making sure their needs are being met —physical and emotional.”

That’s a big job at a school where two-thirds of the kids are labeled economically disadvantaged.

Explore the full story in our American Graduate series, "Race, Poverty and the Changing Face of Schools."

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.