Lometa's Justus Alaniz, 00, takes a shot against Jonesboro on Friday.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Nuckles

One season after going 9-1 en route to winning the District 28-1A, Division II championship, Lometa (10-4, 1-0) is looking to repeat the run. Ranked No. 18 in the current Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ poll, the Hornets earned a 69-39 win against Jonesboro to open district play Friday, but will look to improve during the holiday break as they await their next district game Jan. 7.Lometa head coach Aaron Nuckles spoke with Herald reporter Clay Whittington on Monday.

Is the team where you anticipated it would be at this point in the season?

Honestly, I think we are a little bit ahead of where me or (assistant coach D.T.) Torres thought we would be. You never know. When it comes to wins and losses, you have no idea where you are going to be.

We lost a couple of games we probably would have won in the Rochelle tournament because it was canceled, so we didn’t get to play them, but coming out of it with only four losses, I think that is incredible. Honestly, because looking at our four losses, two of them were at the tournament in Wichita Falls against bigger schools, and the other two were against private schools. When you put a private school on the schedule, you never know what you are going to get because they always bring kids in and out.

So, I thought we handled it really well. The big thing is the way the kids played these last two weeks. They are really playing together. So ... we are very pleased with where we are at right now.

You won your district opener. How important is it to get that first one?

It’s huge. You don’t want to go into Christmas break with a loss, and you dang sure don’t want to in district. That was against one of the three playoff teams last year. I think they graduated one senior. They got everybody back, so you’d think they’d be a playoff team out of the district and to go in — and I hate to use the word — and dominate, but when you win by 30, you kind of feel like you dominated. To get out with a 30-point win, we are very pleased.

You’ve got San Saba and an alumni game scheduled during an 18-day break between district games. Is that an issue for you?

Yes and no. Mentally, the kids needed a break. You hate to take a break when you are rolling, and we’ve won six straight, so we are kind of rolling right now, but some of those guys have been going nonstop since August with football. … Bigger than their bodies (needing a break), they need a mental break.

I think it is good for them to get away from it and kind of clean the slate and come back. I’m sure we are not going to be clicking like we were when we left, but that’s why you’ve got those nondistrict games in there. If you lose one of them — you dang sure don’t want to lose two of them — if things don’t go your way, at least you get that out of the way. So when Tuesday rolls around and we’ve got that district game, they are back to where they were. That is the game plan anyway.

Is there any worry about losing some of the team’s mental edge over the break?

Yeah, but we are going to have five or six practices over the break once we get past the five-day rule with the UIL. So, hopefully between that and those two games, we can get all the bad stuff out of the way and be clicking again. I don’t know if it is possible to click right out of the break, but this same group of kids handled it pretty well last year, and we kind of did the same schedule, so I’m hoping it works again.

I know that as coaches you never want to say you need a break, but it is kind of good to get to watch a little TV and enjoy the family without having to worry about game plans or practice plans. When it comes back around and by the time five or six or seven days are over with, you are ready to get back in the gym. I think the kids are kind of the same way.

What has to happen in order to have a successful run through district?

In our district, it is physical play. I have never seen a district this physical, and it is not like a bunch of fouling. It is physical.

Jonesboro was a little more physical than we thought they would be. They made you earn everything. (We return against) Cranfills Gap, and they are the most physical team in the district. If you drive, you are going to get checked. You are going to get slapped, you are going to get scratched, and that is just how basketball is sometimes. It is not necessarily fouls, it is just physical play.

That is the big thing coming back, we’ve got to work on it in practice when we get back in the gym and get them use to that play, because it is going to be waiting on us. That is the biggest challenge, because it is night in and night out with this district. It is physical, but I think we’ll be ready to go.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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