Just as in the college game, guard play is crucial at the high school level, and the area is full of quickness, athleticism and accuracy in its smaller players.
The floor generals from the area look to lead their teams to a longer run in the postseason, help bring along younger players or turn some heads among the less populous classifications.
The Lady Bulldawgs are undergoing some major changes this season after losing key players from last season’s squad.
Leading scorer Mikayla Blount, who was named the Killeen Daily Herald’s All-Area Co-Offensive Player of the Year and placed on the 12-6A All-District First Team, graduated, along with guards Angel Mullen and Kenya Haynes and small forward Caprica Brooks.
Copperas Cove still has plenty of talent remaining from last year’s team that returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence. One of the keys to this season’s success will be forward Chyanne Chapman, who is coming off an impressive sophomore season. Last year, she averaged 8.7 points and 10 rebounds per game, earning all-district and all-area newcomer of the year honors.
The Lady Bulldawgs will also rely on guards Keturah Taylor, who was placed on the all-district second team last year as a junior, and Alex Wilson to help carry the offense after producing an overall record of 21-11 last year and finishing in a three-way tie for second place in the district standings.
For the first time in two seasons, Ellison didn’t finish as a district champion last season.
And this season, the Lady Eagles — second-place finishers in 12-6A last year — are eager to return to the top of the district standings, which they hope to do with a new team-oriented philosophy and a rededication to the defensive end of the court.
Junior Madison Hattix-Covington — a starter in her first two seasons on varsity — returns and might normally be expected to carry the offensive load with players like Jordanna Porter, a 2014 All Area co-Offensive Player of the Year, and Bri Gray, both now playing Division I college basketball.
But instead, head coach Sherry McKinnon said she hopes to see every player contribute equally as she has shortened her roster in hopes that each player will play a significant role.
Seniors Naomi Burnette and Arriyana Forch return to not only lead the Lady Eagles’ defensively but also to provide leadership as they enter their fourth season on the varsity.
McKinnon also said sophomore posts Aujunnae Smith and CC McClain are expected to play larger roles in their second varsity seasons.
The senior tandem of Clarrisa Carranco and Mackenzie Futrell are the leaders of the Lady Buffaloes and bring a lot of athleticism to the backcourt.
The Lady Buffs will likely look for Carranco and Futrell to uses their speed and quickness to create more offensive chances. Futrell, a point guard, also has the ability to hit from the 3-point line.
Florence will likely have a three-guard lineup with Courney Culp, Madi Hill and Bonnie Weidler rotating in as the third guards.
Peyton Faulkner will provide the Lady Buffs with size in the post while Juana Macedo will likely take over as the team’s center.
Florence head coach Drake Stanczak said a point of emphasis is free throw shooting and the Lady Buffs hope to take advantage of those opportunities more this season.
The Hornets experienced plenty of growing pains last season.
After starting the season by winning 18 of their first 23 games, Gatesville hit a wall in District 17-4A play, going 2-8 and missing the playoffs for just the third time since 2009. Following the strong start, the late struggles were surprising, but not completely unexpected considering the overall inexperience of the team.
The Hornets had eight underclassmen on their roster last season and their youth caught up with them in an ultra-competitive district.
Last season’s problem, however, should be a huge benefit this season.
While still young, Gatesville’s players have experienced a season together and learned what it takes to be successful in head coach Chris Carroll’s system.
Despite her age, sophomore guard Rebekah Nolte will be looked to as a leader on the court after landing on the all-area second team as a freshman. She was also an all-district first-team selection.
Others who will help elevate the Hornets’ game this season include junior guards Kaity Eudy, an all-district honorable mention as a sophomore, and Corie Tunnell, junior post Gracie Lee and sophomore Allaira Jones.
This season will be the first in four years that Harker Heights will take the floor without do-everything point guard Alexus Dukes, now at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
And while a player like Dukes is impossible to replace, head coach Shirretha Nelson said the hope is that the young Lady Knights can come close — and return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus — by jelling as a team.
Junior Sheanne Ellis-Clayton impressed alongside Dukes in her second varsity season last year and now will be expected to step up and lead this season, Nelson said.
Senior Jalynn Bonner also was a regular contributor for the Lady Knights last season and is expected to see an expanded role as well.
As for the younger players, Nelson said Harker Heights has a slew of them who contributed on junior varsity and will have opportunities to step up on varsity, where the motto in practice has been “nothing is guaranteed.”
One player that fits that description was sophomore Angelica Brown, who Nelson said has the potential to be a standout once she adjusts to the varsity level and her role on the team.
The Lady Roos got a taste of success last season and now look to make a deeper playoff run after finishing 2014-15 with a 23-11 record and making it to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Senior guard Carmen Williams established herself as a great defensive guard as a junior, and as a senior will be called upon to be a bigger part of the offense as the team looks to replace Killeen Daily Herald All-Area MVP Raven Ringo.
Guard Alexus Scharkley was a role player on last season’s team and looks to build upon that while Kayla Lovell could take another step in the backcourt.
Reigning all-area Defensive Player of the Year Ke’Aunna Johnson will have her defensive intensity called upon once again this season in the paint. Junior Jacen Moore joins Johnson up front and is Killeen’s best rebounder. The Lady Roos look to get Lauren Watkins move involved offensively.
The Lady Badgers ended a 14-year playoff drought last season. Now, they are looking to begin a streak of postseason appearances.
Thanks in part to a renewed energy within the program, Lampasas played beyond the regular-season finale for the first time since head coach Jenny Bowden was on the Lady Badgers’ roster.
Although some key pieces were lost from the squad that finally ended the postseason famine, this year’s team could be in line for another standout campaign.
The Lady Badgers must address the losses of standouts Caitlyn Shaughnessy and Qadrey Tolliver, who both graduated after being placed on the 25-4A All-District First Team. Prior to their departures, however, the pair helped reinvigorate the program as they guided Lampasas to a 14-16 overall record, including a 7-3 showing en route to finishing second in the district standings.
Senior Alexis Lewis and junior Alexis Theus, who both play post, should continue to blossom after landing on the all-district second team last season, while guard Nola Bishop should see also see an increased role.
The Lady Hornets must find a new identity.
Mikhaila Barnett helped carry Lometa to an undefeated District 25-1A championship last season and was named district MVP and placed on the all-area first team. Her 13 points, four assists and four steals also guided the Lady Hornets into the third round of the playoffs.
Barnett graduated, however, and now second-year head coach Jamie Masonheimer must find a way to replace his former standout’s production.
Luckily, he has, with plenty of people to turn to, including post Tori Shoemaker.
The junior developed into a true force during last season’s run through district and the playoffs and was placed on the all-district first team as a sophomore after being an honorable mention one year earlier.
Additionally, junior guard Grace Masonheimer showed tremendous improvements last year, matching Shoemaker’s jump from honorable-mention player to all-district first-team selection in just one season, while senior guard Angela Arellano was a second-team selection last season.
In total, the Lady Hornets return seven players from last season’s roster, along with their head coach, who is the third person to oversee the team in the last five years.
Last season was a tough one for Salado in its first season in Class 4A.
But the Lady Eagles return nearly the entire roster from a young team that they hope will be back in the playoff picture this year.
Junior Sarah Kate Kelarek has been a key contributor for Salado in her first two varsity seasons and hopes to play an even bigger role this season, head coach Diane Konarik said.
Konarik said she also expects Payton Dreitz to see an expanded role in the paint as the Lady Eagles look to replace Taylor Atwood inside.
Salado is hoping to thrive on its inside-outside game with Dreitz in the paint and knockdown shooters Kerrigan Hearne and Kierstan Osborn on the outside.
And with a more experienced team that is hungry to win, the Lady Eagles are hoping that leads to more success in 2015.
Head coach Michelle O’Neal’s second season could see the Lady Grey Wolves improve with three starters returning, including Kristen Nelson.
Nelson controlled the tempo of the Lady Wolves offense last season with her ability to dish the ball for points and get her teammates involved in the offense. She is also Shoemaker’s best 3-point shooter.
Seniors Milena Rodriguez-Arrieta and Shadazia Birchette also bring experience to the Lady Wolves backcourt while Makayla Gatewood and Tija Hawkins are Shoemaker’s strongest players down low.
O’Neal said having three returning starters and four seniors on the team means the Lady Wolves have their sights set on a playoff spot this season.