The stage is set.
But who is the headliner in District 8-5A?
Unlike the girls, in which Ellison currently reigns supreme with a perfect 5-0 district record, no boys team can claim hardwood supremacy in 8-5A at this point in the season.
Harker Heights has yet to lose since Ellison handed it a disappointing defeat at home to open district play, possibly the Knights’ most deflating loss of the season.
Yet that same Ellison team was equally uninspiring in its first loss to Copperas Cove in 20 years to open the new calendar year.
And Cove responded to that landmark win by becoming the first team to lose to Temple in league play.
Cove now falls back into a mass of two-loss teams, including Killeen, Shoemaker and Waco Midway.
Shoemaker and Midway played Heights closely before falling late while Killeen topped Shoemaker and nearly did the same to Ellison before sophomore Isaiah Stevenson gave the Eagles a crucial victory with a game-winning shot at the buzzer.
So, besides the fact that two very good teams will miss the playoffs, what do we know in District 8-5A?
At this point, there isn’t even a frontrunner like Ellison was for most of the district season last year.
And while there is plenty of time to change that, it is also time for the district picture to become even foggier.
It’d be easy to single out Heights and Ellison as the frontrunners, but Cove already proved this year that it’d be more than presumptuous to assume it is the Knights and Eagles then everybody else in District 8-5A.
Heights and Ellison do own the best records in the league and are already on a collision course for the rematch Jan. 21 at Heights.
But there is a lot of basketball to be played between now and then, including a trip to Cove today for Heights and a trip to Shoemaker today for Ellison.
If Cove and Shoemaker were to prevail, there’d be at least four teams tied for the best record in the district.
As many as six teams can boast a two-loss district record by the end of the day, which marks a week from the end of the first half of district play.
With District 7-5A, which boasts top-five teams in DeSoto and South Grand Prairie, looming as bi-district opponents, grabbing control of District 8-5A can have long-term benefits beyond bragging rights.
Finishing as a district champion can be the difference between facing a team like South Grand Prairie, the state runner-up last year, in the first round of the playoffs, as Heights did last year, or in the regional quarterfinals as Ellison did last year.
The district will certainly sort itself out over the final four and half weeks of the regular season.
But the question remains, is there a team ready to grab control of 8-5A with the second half of the district season looming?