Saturday, March 2, 2024

Basketball: Girls gearing up for great season

The girls basketball programs of southern Denton County have a lot to be excited about, as 2023-24 promises to be a good year.

The region produced some of the strongest programs in the state last season, and a number of top performers are back looking to pick up where they left off.

Liberty Christian won a TAPPS 5A state championship last season, its third in the last 10 years and sixth since 2007.

Former assistant coach Kelly Whisenhunt will take the reins for the Lady Warriors this year, and with the return of such standouts as Liz Egger and Jazzy Powell, Liberty could be looking to pick up where it left off.

“We are looking to be solid all around with depth this year,” Whisenhunt said. “As long as we stay healthy, we could make another deep playoff run.”

The Lady Warriors finished 35-6 overall last season with a district record of 8-0.

Whisenhunt, who served as assistant to coach Ken Burroughs for the last six years, said her program is in pretty good shape as the season gets set to get underway.

“We have a lot of excitement and high expectations for the upcoming season,” Whisenhunt said.

Down the road at Argyle, the Lady Eagles had an outstanding campaign as well in 2022-23 and are hoping that a combination of experience and talented youth can serve as a recipe for a long playoff run.

Argyle finished 14-0 in district last season, winning a district championship and reaching the area round of the playoffs.

Coach Chance Westmoreland said his team would compete for a playoff spot this season.

“We have a really good mix of returning players to go along with three JV players moving up to varsity and three incoming freshmen on varsity,” Westmoreland said.

In his seventh season at the helm for Argyle, Westmoreland led the Lady Eagles to a 31-4 overall record and returns substantial firepower, including Gabby Campbell (District 7-5A Offensive Player of the Year), Mallory Millington, Samantha Bacon and Kennedy Hafer.

Up in Denton, the Guyer Lady Wildcats are looking to get over the hump this year, following a 6-8 showing in district last season and missing the postseason by one spot.

Coach Jake Floyd said while his team is relatively young, he is pleased with what he has seen so far.

“We’re going to start two freshmen and eventually two sophomores with one junior,” Floyd said. “They’re going to be young, but they are talented. It should be right in the mix in District 5-6A.”

Floyd said he has two returning starters, and the players to watch this year for the Lady Wildcats include Peyton Underwood, Baylee Bowman, Madison McGhie, Amaya Langford and Audrey Mitchell.

With an overall record of 13-14 in 2022-23, Guyer is right on the brink of rivaling for a playoff spot, a position Floyd said is totally up to his players this season.

“This young group is competitive and has the work ethic to match what they want,” Floyd said. “If they grow up quickly enough, they will be right there in the end.”

Over in Flower Mound, the Lady Jags are coming off of a 27-7 season and a third place finish in district competition.

Coach Sherika Nelson is in her 17th season as head coach at Flower Mound and said that this year’s team has a good mixture of experience and youth.

“We will be young in some areas of the game, but we have very strong leadership in our seniors and they understand the work it takes to get ourselves in a position to fight for the playoff run,” Nelson said. “We are looking to get out and run the basketball and take advantage of our transition game. We are focusing on the small details of our game and learning to trust the process. We look to have a strong presence both inside the paint and beyond the 3-point line.”

Flower Mound had a 10-4 district record last season and players to watch include Natalie Milwood, Kaitlyn Edmondson and Maya Bujak.

“Our strong leadership this year and the growth we made last year will help us fight for a playoff spot,” Nelson said. “Our district is so tough, night in and night out, that we will approach each game with a playoff mentality.”

Across town at Marcus, the Lady Marauders are looking to rebound from a winless district season, and coach Mallory Singleton-Lynn said she has a couple of reasons to be optimistic.

“We have had a really good offseason,” Singleton-Lynn said. “Not only are we playing better basketball, we are playing better together and it makes me excited for the upcoming season!”

Marcus will be led by Alina Martin, Kennedi Petteway, Addison Wragge and Cassie Young, and Singleton-Lynn said she is hopeful her team will be in the playoff hunt come February.

“Our kids have been working very hard and have bought into the vision for this season,” Singleton-Lynn said. “We will for sure be more competitive than last year and secure our first district win since January 26, 2021.”

For Coram Deo, a 9-3 district record and playoff berth last season has the Lady Lions ready for more.

“We have eight returning varsity players who have spent the summer building on their already special chemistry,” coach Jackie Manack said. “We’re looking to add some young talent to the mix, and we are excited to see what the season holds for this team.”

Coram Deo was 22-12 overall last season, and returns a lot of firepower, including senior Lily Patterson, a first-team all-district selection last season and academic all-state.

The Lady Lions also have a “stacked junior class” with returning varsity players Hannah Newton, Campbell Skelly, Claire Kavalich, Anna Beckey, Kate Schmitz and Jordyn Juergens.

Also keep an eye on sophomore Selah Johnson, who scored 628 points in her freshman season, was selected Newcomer of the Year, and was first-team all-state.

“We will be competing for a playoff spot again this season,” Manack said. “This group is ambitious and has been goal-setting for the last few months.  They will be fun to watch this season.”

In Justin, Northwest finished last season with a 23-13 overall record and a 7-5 mark in district competition.

Coach Lindsey Pouncy said her team has faced some obstacles early on, but she is still optimistic.

“We only have a couple girls that played quality minutes on the varsity court last year, and have a whole new group of girls we are working to gel together,” Pouncy said. “We also have been plagued with injuries and illness early and had one season-ending ACL injury – Sam Rivas – who would have been a big contributor for us, especially on the defensive end. We still don’t have everyone healthy so we’ll be playing catch up, as our group we’ve had to work with has changed weekly.

“We are facing a lot of challenges, but this group is resilient and works incredibly hard, so I’m very excited for the season and to see what we can accomplish.”

Look for Avery McClung and Kai Camp to lead the way for the Lady Texans this season.

Northwest finished third in district and claimed a playoff spot last season, and Pouncy said she believes this year’s team is capable of competing for a postseason spot.

“We are inexperienced but compete and work hard,” Pouncy said. “So with that, I feel we will always have a chance to win.”

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