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Area basketball teams likely to take courts by storm

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As the playoffs get underway in football and volleyball, and distance runners gear up for the regional and state cross-country meets, our attention is turned to the hardwood, where a number of the top programs find their homes in southern Denton County. Our region has been home to some of the strongest basketball talent in the state in recent years and this season looks to continue that tradition.

Boys ready to hit hardcourt

The 2013-14 school year was a good one for most of the boys basketball teams in southern Denton County, and it appears as though this season will not be much different.

Multiple area teams qualified for the postseason with a couple of teams advancing beyond the first round and, with a lot of returning talent for the upcoming campaign, this year should be very interesting.

The Argyle boys basketball team is coming off of a season in which it finished third in district competition and advanced to the area round of the playoffs.

The Eagles opened the post-season with a 54-50 victory over Sanger, before coming up just short against Wilmer-Hutchins.

Last year’s district Offensive MVP Jonathan Davis will be returning this season, along with JC Chalk and Hunter Shoemake to give the Eagles a strong nucleus on which to build.

Realignment placed Argyle in a tougher basketball district this season, but a playoff spot should be within the team’s grasp this season.

Across town at Liberty Christian, a 7-19 finish and 3-9 mark in district was not what the Warriors had hoped for in 2013-14, but the program is looking to rebound.

The Warriors reached the state semifinals just two years ago, where the team lost by one point to district rival FW Nolan, and are hungry to get back prominence.

Over at Flower Mound, the Jaguars are looking to rebound from a season in which they finished 18-13 for the year, but ended up missing the playoffs.

Coach Eric Littlejohn said that it is kind of hard to tell how things are shaping up, because there are a lot of new faces.

“We have a lot of new guys playing varsity minutes but they are working hard and embracing their roles in the program,” Littlejohn said.

The Flower Mound coach said he does have a couple of players he expects to have stronger seasons.

“We return Jake Feickert and Connor Green,” Littlejohn said. “Jake was the district Offensive MVP scoring 19.7 a game. Connor was first team all-district.”

Littlejohn said the Jaguars have been picked to finish eighth out of the nine district teams this year, so the goal is to “surprise everyone.”

To have a strong season and contend for a playoff spot, it all comes down to fundamentals, he said.

“We are really small,” Littlejohn said. “Most people’s point guard will be bigger than our starting five-man. So, we have to play great help defense and box out strong.”

For the Marcus basketball team, a 25-4 record on the regular season and second place finish in district competition culminated in an area round loss to Harker Heights in the playoffs.

The Marauders return all-district selections Michael Mayhew and Michael Wheeler this season, who should lead the way for Marcus in their quest for another post-season berth.

A lot of Marcus’ potential success depends on whether last year’s district Offensive MVP Xavier Adams’ numbers can be replicated.

The point guard averaged 17 points per game last season, which was his senior year.

Flower Mound private school Coram Deo Adademy will feature a boys basketball team this year that went 12-10 overall, with a 6-3 record and made the postseason in 2013-14.

Coach Eric Tullos said that it is hard for him to get a gauge on how things are going at this point, but added he and his players are excited for the season.

“Right now we are working with an incomplete team with a few of our players still in football,” Tullos said. “However, we have made strides in progressing offensively and defensively, from a fundamental standpoint. In addition, this year we move up to TAPPS 4A after playing in 3A the past few seasons. We have been working on the building blocks to be successful in what we view as a tough season ahead, especially in district.”

Coram Deo returns Logan McClure (1st Team All-District), Blake Tullos (1st Team All-District), Gray Prewitt (2nd Team All-District) and Luke Black (2nd Team All-District) this season.

Tullos said the goals for this season are for his team to prepare themselves to compete at a higher physical and mental game.

“For us to be successful this year, we need to play well, play hard and play smart,” Tullos said. “This may seem generalized, but if we can do these three things, we can put ourselves in position to win some games and win some needed district games to compete and to put ourselves in position for a possible playoff berth.”

The Guyer basketball team finished 18-11 last season and 11-3 in district competition, and Coach Grant Long said he thinks his team should be able to pick up where it left off last season.

“We won’t be the biggest team, but will have excellent guard play and shooters, and will play extremely hard,” Long said. “We have seven returning lettermen from last season with great experience.”

Long said he expects for Sean Choate, Kason Kilgore, Bryson Erby, Gordon Hill and Mitchell Willard to be among the team leaders for this season and said he believes Keller will be the Wildcats’ most difficult district opponent.

To have another season like it enjoyed last year, Long said, his team will have to do a good job with “defense and rebounding.”

Girls expect excellence

As the girls of southern Denton County gear up for another season on the hardwood, local basketball fans should have a lot to cheer about from the moment of the first tip off until the nets are cut down in Austin at the state tournament.

The Argyle girls advanced all the way to the state championship last season before falling just short in the championship game against Waco La Vega. Coach Skip Townsend said his team hopes to pick up right where it left off.

“Things are looking good so far for the 2014-15 season,” Townsend said. “We’re returning eight players, including five starters from the 36-2 state runner-up team.”

Argyle returns several strong players from last year’s squad, including all-state selections Delaney Sain (13.5 ppg, 6.6 rebounds per game, 53 percent fg), Jesse Sheridan (9.8 ppg, 4.8 assists per game, 77 percent free throw) and Vivian Gray (13.4 ppg, 6.7 rebounds per game, 52 percent fg).

Argyle was definitely affected by realignment this season, with Townsend saying his team will have to run the proverbial gauntlet to defend its district championship.

“Our district is very tough,” Townsend said. “It’s the toughest 4A district in the state of Texas with every team making the playoffs last year. Celina we beat in the Regional Finals game in double overtime.”

To repeat upon the success it enjoyed last season, Townsend said it will take a couple of things.

“We have to stay healthy, stay unified and continue to get better each day and each game,” Townsend said. “We are playing a very tough preseason schedule filled with ranked 5A and 6A teams. We will also play in the prestigious Naples Holiday Shootout sponsored by ESPN in
Naples, Fla., over the Christmas break. Getting through that schedule will be plenty tough.”

Down the road at Liberty Christian, the Lady Warriors are coming off of a playoff season as well, and appear to be poised to have another shot at the post-s
eason again this year.

Liberty Christian finished 24-9 overall last year, good enough for third place in the TAPPS District I-5A, with an overall district mark of 11-3.

The guard tandem of sisters Rebekah and Hannah Hand will lead the way for the Lady Warriors this season and should give fits to opposing defenses.

In Denton, the Guyer girls are looking to improve upon their 2013-14 campaign that saw the team finish 22-6 overall with an 11-3 district mark, and appear to have just the personnel to do so.

Jada Calloway, Lauren Heard, Bre Wickware and Ola Akinniyi were all-district selections in 2013-14 and lead a strong group of returning players that should vie for a district title.

The Lady Wildcats lost in the area round of the post-season to Cleburne by two points last year, after beating Saginaw in bi-district.

For the Marcus girls basketball team, coach Fred Jones said confidence is high this year following a 2013-14 campaign in which the Lady Marauders finished 29-3 and 10-0 in district competition.

“We are excited about this season,” Jones said. “We have eight returning varsity lettermen, along with a JV team that had a 25-2 record last year. We are building chemistry, and we have a good mix of bigs and guards.”

The district 5-5A Coach of the Year last season said he expects a number of players to have strong seasons this year.

Alexus Jones and Taylor Roof should be among the team leaders for Marcus this year.

Jones said the goal this year is the same as any other, to win a state championship and, in order to have a strong season again, it will take dedication and hard work from his players.

“For us to have a good season, we simply need to accept and commit to our individual roles and believe in ourselves,” Jones said. “We have a young team, so our ability to come together and grow early in the season will be important.”

The Flower Mound girls basketball team also had an impressive showing last season, finishing 8-2 in district competition and as the runners up in 5-5A.

Coach Sherika Nelson said she is looking forward to the season and believes her team has what it takes to be there right until the end.

“We are working hard to prepare for the upcoming season,” Nelson said. “We have a lot of experience coming back from last year and hope to use that to our advantage. This district will be tough and we will have to play consistent basketball night in and night out.”

Nelson said Lauren Cox will lead the way for the Lady Jaguars this season, averaging 19 ppg, 14 rpg and five blocks last year.

“She has the ability to control both ends of the court,” Nelson said.

Courtney Fields and Marin Mills both averaged seven ppg last year and will be key returners who bring a lot of energy and defense.

Flower Mound finished 19-10 overall last season and reached the second round of the playoffs.

Nelson said the goal this season is to compete for a district championship and make a deep run in the playoffs. To accomplish that goal, she said, it will take a couple of things.

“We will have to play unselfish basketball, control the boards and be the toughest defensive team in the district,” Nelson said.

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