Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


January 3, 2014

GC Basketball: Girls District 18-1A DI preview

Corsicana — History, revenge, soaring programs and soaring players are only the tip of the iceberg for the District 18-1A DI girls basketball race.

If there's a district race in the Golden Circle that has all that and more — and enough intrigue to capture the imagination of any girls basketball fan — it's this one.

They tip off this weekend.

“This is one of the best districts in Texas, if not the best,'' said Hubbard Coach Cotton Kendall, who believes his kids can win it, but who also believes it will be rocky ride to the top.

“I'll tell you one thing,'' Kendall said. “The three teams that get out of this district and make the playoffs are going to be battle-tested, that's for sure. I believe it's going to be a four or five team race.''

If it is, and if someone beats Kerens, it will make a little history.

The LadyCats (13-4 this season) haven't lost a district game in more than three years.

But even Kerens Coach Denise Lincoln believes the district is loaded this season, and has a lot of respect for Hubbard, Wortham and Cayuga.

But Lincoln also knows her team, and she feels this year's team might be as good — or even better — then the one that made it to the Final Four two years ago. After all, most of the girls played on that team that reached the state semifinals.

Seniors Taylor Ames, Marqueshia Kelly and Cambree Betts were sophomores and Breanna Baxter was a freshmen who played.

Ames leads Kerens in scoring this season (14.7 per game) and Baxter (13.3) and Betts (11.1) are also averaging double figures. Kelly is averaging 8.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and has blocked 29 shots. She's shooting 50 percent from the field on 2-point shots, Baxter, who is pulling down 7.1 boards a game, is shooting 59 percent on 2-pointers. Ames has drilled 26 3's already and Betts has made 16 3-pointers.

The LadyCats simply have so many weapons teams can't worry about stopping one player, and the kids want to keep the streak alive and carry it to four seasons.

Hubbard (14-1) has lost only to Kerens in the semifinals of the Kiwanis Tournament, where Kerens took over in a lopsided 64-34 win in the semifinal game.

“We turned the ball over 35 times in that game,'' Kendall said. “The thing that helps us against Kerens is that we match up with them athletically. We can't turn the ball over 35 times against a good team, and Kerens has a great team.''

Kendall vowed after the loss that his team would bounce back and said that game meant nothing because the big games were in the district race in January. Lincoln said he was “exactly right.''

Mark down a couple of pretty big dates: Jan. 14 and Jan. 31 – that's when Kerens and Hubbard meet again. The Jan. 14 game is at Kerens, but Hubbard gets the LadyCats at home at the end of the month as the district race winds down.

“It's going to be a fun month to watch basketball,'' Kendall said. “Kerens is good, but I won't count out Wortham, and Cayuga is good and Cross Roads is ranked in the top 25 in the TGCA state poll, and I respect Dawson. They have a good team, too.''

Dawson,  which is led by Kaylee Martinez and Stephanie Lindsey, is scrappy and first year coach Kelsey Tucker brings a lot of passion to the game

 Kerens, Hubbard and Wortham have all been ranked in the top 10 in the state this season, but as Kendall, who took over the program this year, likes to point out: “The only thing that counts is the district. Hubbard won 20 games last year but went 5-5 in district and didn't go to the playoffs.''

The Lady Jags have seen just about everyone have big moments on the court, and Jasmine Parks is averaging a double-double for the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing 14 rebounds a game. Nakalia Banks, who is Hubbard's top scoring threat is averaging about 12 points a game and role players such as Tysheunna Hawthorne, a sophomore, and Shayla Park, a freshman point guard who is quick and tough, have emerged this season. Kate Saucke, who is a three-sports star at Hubbard, does a little of every thing.

“She does,'' Kendall said. “She has played everywhere for us and does whatever I ask her to do. We are really playing so well as a team that we don't need Nakaila to score (20 points) because everyone is scoring.''

Wortham also has a well balanced team with Elisha Libhart and Kierra Busby leading the way. Point guard Kamarie Freeman runs the floor along with Sara Sessions, a savvy guard, and Kameron Rhodes, who can be a dominate player as well.

“Busby is one of those players who can take over a game, and (Libhart) is a really good player.'' said Kendall, who puts Wortham right in the hunt for a title. He's already looking at Tuesday's showdown at Wortham.

“That is a huge, huge game for us,'' Kendall said. “If we could beat them at their place it would be a huge boost to our psyche. We go to Wortham on Tuesday and then play Cayuga on Friday and play Kerens the next Tuesday in  three-game stretch. We will know right away where we stand.

“It's going to be a heavyweight fight. It's going to be a battle right to the end in this district.''


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