Denton head coach Dennis Krishka sees one clear-cut favorite heading into District 5-4A play, which begins tonight.
Wichita Falls Rider (12-2) is ranked No. 11 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 4A state poll and has beaten state powerhouses such as Brock and Aledo.
The next team Rider plays is Krishka’s Lady Broncos squad, which will play host to the Lady Raiders tonight, and Krishka knows he has his hands full.
“I think Rider is the best and Guyer and Byron Nelson are battling out for [second and third],” Krishka said. “Everyone else, from what I can see, is pretty equal and battling it out for the fourth [playoff] spot.”
Guyer head coach Harold Colson doesn’t see things shaking out quite like that.
The Lady Wildcats (9-3) are coming off a breakout 2011-12 season in Class 5A, in which they won more than 20 games and made the playoffs in a stout district that featured Southlake Carroll and Coppell.
But star player Jasmine Leday is gone, leaving players such as Quamese Moss and Bre Clay-Baker, who had a breakout season last year as a junior before a season-ending knee injury.
“At this point we’ve seen all of our opponents, whether it’s scouting or playing, and I don’t think there’s anybody out there that we don’t think we can compete with,” Colson said. “If there’s a strong team out there that’s going to jump up and take control of the district, that’ll shake out as the year goes on. Looking at everyone in the preseason, at least, what I saw there isn’t a dominant team out there that’s head and shoulders above everyone else.”
Guyer opens up on the road at Wichita Falls as the Lady Wildcats will play their first district game in Class 4A since 2009, before Colson arrived.
Colson said he doesn’t believe his team has a target on its back because his new district opponents know the Guyer team that had a successful season in 5A isn’t the same anymore.
“I think the coaches around the district know we had a breakout season and won a lot of games in 5A, but they also know I graduated a lot of those kids,” Colson said. “They know that we go out and play well sometimes and we struggle at times because we did graduate a lot of the kids that played major roles on that team.”
But players like Moss and Clay-Baker also played integral roles on that team, and Colson added the winning experience last season would do nothing but help as his team starts district play.
“We’ve been up and down and struggling along this [pre-district season] like everyone else,” Colson said. “It’s definitely good to have last year though and to know that you have that potential. It’s good for the kids to know, but this is a different team and a different year. Us being at 5A or 4A or whatever, we’re going to have those struggles because it’s a totally different team that we’re dealing with this year.”
For Krishka, the biggest struggle so far this season has been what plagued the Lady Broncos down the stretch last year, when they lost to Little Elm in a play-in game for the fourth seed.
The Lady Broncos are shooting less than 25 percent from the field as a team, which has Krishka relying heavily on a defense he said has gotten more stingy as the nondistrict schedule has gone on.
“We’re definitely relying on our defense,” Krishka said. “Our defense is much improved and that’s where we’re hanging our hats. We struggle scoring the ball because we’re shooting under 25 percent as a team. If you don’t shoot the basketball, you have to do something on the other end of the floor, and that’s where our focus is right now.”
At Lake Dallas, first-year head coach Jonathan Lee said that despite his team’s 2-12 record, he has been encouraged by the progress the Lady Falcons have shown throughout nondistrict play. They take the floor tonight at White Settlement Brewer.
Lee said he was encouraged by a close loss to Guyer last week and his team has been led by Megan Dando’s 14 points per game.
It’s that perceived parity that leads Krishka to believe the district race will be close, at least for that fourth and final playoff spot.
“I think these first four games before Christmas will tell a lot of where everyone’s at,” Krishka said. “We’ll have a good sample. We have a tough schedule, ourselves, compared to a lot of teams because we’ll see Rider, Byron Nelson and Guyer before the holidays, so that’ll give us a good idea of where everyone sits as we head into Christmas.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .