Saturday, March 2, 2024

Basketball: Area teams primed for pivotal year

Three of the seven area boys programs earned postseason berths in 2022-23, and this year could be even better.

Last season, two area teams just missed a playoff berth and appear to be right on the cusp of qualifying this year.

The Argyle boys, for instance, finished 24-10 overall last season with a 7-7 mark in district competition.

Coach Russell Perkins said extenuating circumstances impacted his team’s performance last season.

“Jayson Demcher is back and healthy after suffering a dislocated ankle in the first district contest last year that caused him to miss almost the entire district race,” Perkins said. “He is a four-year varsity player and the last remaining player that was a part of the 2020-21 state championship team.

“Kash Polk and Jonathan Lungeni are both a year older and bring a year of varsity experience to move their game up a level.”

Argyle lost Jett McCasland, their only returning first-team all-district selection, when his father (Grant McCasland) was named the new head basketball coach for Texas Tech University, but Perkins is confident his team will be in the hunt for the playoffs in 2024.

“Without Demcher in the lineup throughout district last year, our young players really had to grow up to compete in Argyle’s first season in 5A,” Perkins said. “That experience will be a huge help in preparing for district games. We are significantly deeper this year, which is crucial for our second season in a very stacked and athletic 5A district.”

Around the corner at Liberty Christian, the Warriors finished 26-14 overall last season and took third place in district competition.

Coach Preston Nadolski said this could be viewed as a rebuilding year, but he does believe his team has what it takes to return to the playoffs.

“We graduated six seniors from last season,” Nadolski said. “So we have a new, but talented group that is learning how to play together.”

The Warriors look for returner Max Hinds and Fort Worth Christian move-in Easton Hupp to lead the way this year.

“We think, with the group coming back, our new students and our young guys, that we can compete for a playoff spot in district,” Nadolski said. “We want to use our depth and play fast.”

Up the road at Guyer, the Wildcats finished 8-6 in district competition last season to claim the fourth and final playoff spot, and coach Grant Long said while his team has faced a few setbacks, he is feeling good about how things are looking early on.

“With two experienced guards moving to prep schools, we will be young, but we will still be talented,” Long said. “We should have one of our most athletic teams and be really good on the defensive end. Junior Mason White is an athletic, dominant two-way player that impacts the game on both ends.

“Sophomore Silas Rodriguez is one of the best shooters in the state and can score in bunches. Senior Tucker Mitchell is our most consistent player that defends and can really shoot it. Junior Tyler Copes is a 6’9 big in the middle that is back healthy and ready to be a game changer.”

Copes hasn’t played for over a year due to a knee condition, but “is back and ready to make an impact.”

Guyer finished 23-12 overall last season, and Long said he believes his team will contend for a district championship.

“We expect to be a playoff team and battle with a loaded Allen team and McKinney for district,” Long said.

Moving to Flower Mound, Marcus finished last season with an 11-20 overall record and 3-11 showing in district competition.

Coach Matthew Wright said Marcus is in a better situation now.

“We should be a much-improved team fighting for a playoff spot,” Wright said.

Players to watch this season for the Marauders include senior Dominick Harris, senior Dyson Dudley, junior Jayden Ramnanan, and sophomore Luke Susko, all returning starters from last season.

Wright said the varsity experience his players gained last season will give them a boost.

“We have an older team with most players having significant varsity experience and all players having some varsity experience,” Wright said. “Guys are a year older, more mature, and know what is expected. We have a hard-working group that is playing well together.”

Over at Flower Mound, the Jaguars are looking to rebound from a 3-26 season in 2022-23, and coach Eric Littleton said his team is showing some positive signs early on.

“We are young and getting better,” Littleton said.

Zach Cope, Ryan Goyal, and Trent Burkhalter should lead the way for the Jags this season, and Littleton said the major objective for his team is to “continue to get better.”

For Coram Deo Academy, a 14-19 record in 2022-23 had the team just out of reach of a playoff berth, and coach Kyle Kelly said his squad was hit pretty hard by graduation.

“We had nine seniors graduate last year and four of those seniors were starters,” Kelly said. “I preached to this team the importance of hard work and they have not shied away from it. These young men have been working hard during the entire offseason, and I’m excited for them to see the fruits of their labor. They are a fun group to coach, and I’m looking forward to a great season.”

Senior Garrett Reid (returning starter), Elliott Allen, Asher Downs and Nathan Park are the players to keep an eye on this season for Coram Deo.

The Lions finished 4-8 in district competition last season, and Kelly believes with his team’s attitude and dedication, a postseason berth is within grasp.

“This group of young men is selfless,” Kelly said. “They care about one another’s success as if it were their own. When you have a team like that you have something special. They hold each other accountable, and their work ethic is exceptional.

“They realize that we have a long road ahead before we can become the team that we all believe that we can be. Our team goal is to make school history by being the first varsity boys basketball team to get a playoff berth in the TAPPS 5A classification.”

Over in Justin, the Northwest Texans finished 7-5 in district competition and took third place overall last season.

Coach Xzavier Gaines said he is expecting a top-three finish for the Texans this year.

“We should be a playoff team because we have a hard-working team with some talented players,” Gaines said.

Northwest finished 17-18 overall last season, and the players to watch in 2023-24 include Landon Thompson, Daunte Brown and Carter Ford.

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