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2012-13 Girls Basketball Preview: Top-Ranked Martin’s Mill Aiming to Finish the Job at State

(From left) Tyler Lee’s Ciara Johnson, Pine Tree’s Abby Mitchell, Pittsburg’s Cheyenne Ramey and Tyler T.K. Gorman’s Michelle Obach. (Matthew Hogan Photography)

Few were surprised when the Martin’s Mill Lady Mustangs reached the girls state basketball tournament last year for the seventh consecutive season.

The end result may have raised some eyebrows, however, as Martin’s Mill was blown out by Sudan in the state final, the Lady Mustangs’ third consecutive loss in the title game.

Sudan frustrated Martin’s Mill star guard Haily Jenkins, forcing her into 10 turnovers while holding her below her season scoring average. She had little help as her teammates combined for just 24 points on 10 of 37 shooting.

Martin’s Mill (36-5 in 2011-12) coach Doug Barncastle returns Jenkins and three other starters from last season’s Class A Division I state runner-up and his team enters the new season ranked No. 1 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

And what seemed like a tragedy at the time may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Lady Mustangs.

Jenkins, a McNeese State commit who averaged 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds a year ago, suffered a torn ACL during a select game back in April. The recovery kept her out of action for the past six months, causing her teammates to go through the summer and most of the preseason workouts without their leader.

“One of the things we ran into last year in the state championship game, especially, was everybody was focusing in on Haily,” Barncastle said. “We needed somebody else to step up and we didn’t have that person to step up and take the pressure off Haily at the guard position.”

Jenkins is expected to be cleared by her doctor to return the court this week, just in time for the season. But Barnacastle will rely on the other three players with starting experience — 6-0 sophomore post Cheyenne Brown, 6-0 post Meagan Weatherford and guard Taylor Munns — until Jenkins gets back into basketball shape.

With a healthy Jenkins and Co., all signs point to an eighth-straight appearance in Austin at the end of the season.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to get back to the state tournament and try to win a state championship,” Barncastle said. “We’ve been very fortunate in the past and we’d like to carry on that tradition again this year. We have a group of seniors that have been on varsity since they were freshmen.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Neches (34-5), which is coming off three consecutive Class A Division II state championships.

The Lady Tigers, who lost state tournament MVP Roddricka Patton (now at Trinity Valley Community College) to graduation, will try to get back to state, but in a new classification. The UIL moved Neches up to Division I during the biennial realignment and reclassification this past February.

“We’re changing classifications, so the road to that destination becomes a little bit tougher,” Neches coach Andy Snider said. “They’re having to learn different positions and adjust to where we lost kids. We’re looking to regroup just like every team does at this time of the year.”

But the expectations remain the same.

“Nothing less than what we have been doing,” Snider of his team’s outlook. “You talk to every coach and every player and their goal is always to get back to the state championship.”

In Class 5A, Lloyd Mahaffey returns to Tyler Lee (24-9) bench for his second year as head coach hoping to improve on last season, which ended with a loss in the bi-district round of the playoffs. The Lady Raiders bring back one of the top players in the area in 5-11 forward Ciara Johnson, who averaged more than 21 points and eight rebounds as a junior.

John Tyler and Pine Tree look to make some noise in 4A with both returning dynamic players. The Lady Lions bring back explosive point guard Tiaka Lee, while Pine Tree is hoping for big things from 6-3 sophomore post Sky Holmes, who is already getting major college attention for both basketball and volleyball.

In 3A, junior forward Madison Martin and Spring Hill eye a big breakout season, while Diboll begins the year ranked No. 14.

Edgewood and Winnsboro met three times last year — splitting their two district games with Edgewood taking the rubber match in the 2A Region III championship. However, both have to replace the bulk of their rosters from a season ago.

Elysian Fields and Tatum are each ranked in the preseason top 25 and could be sleepers to reach the 2A state tournament.

Tyler T.K. Gorman, led by all-state point guard Michelle Obach, is ranked No. 7 in the large private schools poll after the Lady Crusaders reached the TAPPS 4A state tournament in 2011-12.

TEAMS TO WATCH

TYLER LEE LADY RAIDERS
Head Coach: Lloyd Mahaffey
2011-12 Record: 24-9 (5A bi-district finalist, lost 84-44 to Killeen Harker Heights)

Top Returners

  • Ciara Johnson, Sr., Forward. (21 ppg, 8 rpg, 5.8 spg)
  • Tree Brooks, Soph., Guard. (7 ppg, 1.3 apg, 1.5 spg)
  • Dajah Thompson, Jr., Post

2012-13 Outlook: Second-year coach Lloyd Mahaffey has to replace a pair of Division I signees in Bree Brooks (North Texas) and Stacy Malone (Kansas State), but he does welcome the return of versatile forward Ciara Johnson, a D-I caliber player in her own right. The biggest plus the Lady Raiders have going for them, according to Mahaffey, is their ability to make things happen at the offensive end.

 

PINE TREE LADY PIRATES
Head Coach: Robin Herber
2011-12 Record: 25-8 (4A area finalist, lost 42-32 to Round Rock Cedar Ridge)

Top Returners

  • Sky Holmes, Soph., Post (12 ppg, 17 rpg, 4 bpg, 2 spg)
  • Abby Mitchell, Sr., Guard (10 ppg, 5 apg, 4 spg)
  • Dee Patterson, Sr., Forward

2012-13 Outlook: Robin Herber, in her fourth year as Pine Tree head coach, welcomes back a promising squad led by last season’s district Newcomer of the Year, Sky Holmes. As a freshman, Holmes dominated the interior. Also returning are senior point guard Abby Mitchell and senior forward Dee Patterson, who hope to help the Lady Pirates improve on their area-round finish of a season ago.

 

JOHN TYLER LADY LIONS
Head Coach: Mike Smith
2011-12 Record: 24-9 (4A area finalist, lost 55-37 to West Mesquite)

Top Returners

  • Tiaka Lee, Senior, Guard (18 ppg)
  • Quaneshia Johnson, Senior, Guard
  • Amia Wickware, Soph., Wing

2012-13 Outlook: John Tyler must replace the powerful LaTifah Rainey, who averaged more than 18 points and 18 rebounds per game last season. But head coach Mike Smith brings back a talented trio in the backcourt led by Tiaka Lee, who is primed for a big senior season. The biggest question mark for the Lady Lions is finding replacements for Rainey in the post.

 

WINNSBORO LADY RAIDERS
Head Coach: Chris Lewis
2011-12 Record: 29-9 (2A regional finalist, lost 62-52 to Edgewood)

Top Returners

  • Hannah Pinnell, Sr., Guard (8.2 ppg, 1.2 spg)
  • Dannie Mabry, Jr., Guard (5.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.7 spg)

2012-13 Outlook: After splitting a district championship with Edgewood last season, Winnsboro was denied in the regionals by the Lady Bulldogs in their third meeting of the year. The Lady Raiders lost quite a bit with graduation, most notably forward Brea Draper, who more than 18 points per game last season. Second-year coach Chris Lewis is hoping guards Hannah Pinnell and Dannie Mabry can step up to fill the voids.

 

ELYSIAN FIELDS LADY JACKETS
Head Coach: Carl Reed
2011-12 Record: 25-8 (2A area finalist, lost 47-43 to Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill)

Top Returners

  • Kaylee Prather, Sr., Guard (17.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 6.1 spg, 4.2 apg)
  • Janice Strange, Sr., Post (11 ppg, 10 rpg)
  • Chesney Spears, Sr., Post (10 ppg, 10 rpg))

2012-13 Outlook: Head coach Carl Reed is entering his fifth season for Elysian Fields, and he has a talented trio of returners he hopes can lead his squad to a deep run in the playoffs. Prather, an all-region performer as a junior, can do everything on the court. And the combination of Strange and Spears down low can give opposing defenses nightmares under the basket.

 

EDGEWOOD LADY BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Kyle Short
2011-12 Record: 31-7 (2A state semifinalist, lost 81-55 to Poth)

Top Returners

  • Micaela Brown, Sr., Forward/Guard (11.1 ppg, 2.2 apg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 spg)
  • Hannah Jameson, Soph., Guard
  • Destini Warren, Sr., Post

2012-13 Outlook: It will be difficult for Edgewood to return to the state tournament after the graduation of its top scorers from last season, Susan Agesen and Chandler Short. Head coach Kyle Short does welcome the return of senior Micaela Brown, who did a little bit of everything during the Lady Bulldogs’ historic run through playoffs.

 

TATUM LADY EAGLES
Head Coach: Patricia Nelson
2011-12 Record: 24-4 (2A area finalist, lost 51-43 to New Boston)

Top Returners

  • Kiana Turner, Sr., Guard (17.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.4 apg, 8.7 spg)
  • Kaylah Starling, Jr., Post
  • Sydni Centers, Sr., Guard

2012-13 Outlook: The Lady Eagles begin the year with a high preseason ranking thanks in part to the return of senior guard Kiana Turner, who filled the stat sheet as a junior. Her versatility makes her a tough player for opposing defenses to account for. Tatum also brings back last season’s defensive player of the year in Kaylah Starling as well as first-team all-district performer Sydni Centers.

 

MARTIN’S MILL LADY MUSTANGS
Head Coach: Doug Barncastle
2011-12 Record: 32-3 (1A Division I state finalist, lost 70-40 to Sudan)

Top Returners

  • Haily Jenkins, Sr., Guard (22 ppg, 7 rpg, 11 apg)
  • Taylor Munns, Sr., Guard
  • Cheyenne Brown, Soph., Forward

2012-13 Outlook: The Martin’s Mill Lady Mustangs, ranked No. 1 to begin the season, have played in and lost three straight state finals. Longtime coach Doug Barncastle hopes to remedy that situation with the return of one of the area’s top players Haily Jenkins, a McNeese State commit. Also back is promising 6-0 post Cheyenne Brown, who burst onto the scene as a freshman a season ago.

 

NECHES LADY TIGERS
Head Coach: Andy Snider
2011-12 Record: 34-5 (1A Division II state champions, def. Lipan, 60-41)

Top Returners

  • Kiandra Taylor, Sr., Guard (10 ppg, 7 spg, 3 apg, 4 rpg)
  • Kamry Kinder, Jr., Forward (6 ppg, 1 apg, 6 rpg)
  • Kelsee Wade, Jr., Forward (6 ppg, 1 spg, 2 apg, 10 rpg)

2012-13 Outlook: Head coach Andy Snider has a tough act to follow: three straight state championships. Not only did he lose his top player, Roddricka Patton, from last season, Neches moved up to Class A Division I this season. The jump in classification should be a challenge, but Snider is hoping his trio of returners — Kiandra Taylor, Kamry Kinder and Kelsee Wade — can step up their games.

 

TYLER T.K. GORMAN LADY CRUSADERS
Head Coach: Katie Robertson
2011-12 Record: 31-7 (TAPPS 4A semifinalist, lost 82-64 to Houston Westbury Christian)

Top Returners

  • Michelle Obach, Sr., Guard (20.5 ppg, 3 apg, 2.8 spg)
  • Allie Buzbee, Sr., Guard
  • Brooke Lee, Jr., Guard (10 ppg)

2012-13 Outlook: The Lady Crusaders advanced all the way to the TAPPS 4A state semifinals a year ago, and head coach Katie Robertson returns the bulk of her roster from a season ago. Topping the list is senior point guard Michelle Obach, a four-year varsity performer who has committed to play college ball at Division II Merrimack University in Massachusetts.

 

Special Thanks

ETSN.fm would like to thank Matthew Hogan Photography for their incredible work for our photographs for our boys and girls basketball preview. Matthew Hogan and Daniel Poe own and operate Matthew Hogan Photography, a business based in Tyler that can shoot anything you need, from family photos to senior portraits to the big wedding day. Check out their website and give them a shout.

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