Kevin Starnes took over a Grapevine basketball program that won just eight games two years ago. He instituted his program and watched as the team continued to improve.
In his first season, 2011-12, the Mustangs reached 17 wins. Now, Grapevine (19-10, 7-3 in District 6-5A) has reeled off five straight victories and is poised to make the playoffs.
"It's been a process. These things don't happen overnight, and they don't necessarily happen in one season, but I think that everything is starting to come together," said Starnes, whose team has won nine of its last 10 games. "I think they're really starting to enjoy it."
After opening District 6-5A with two five-point losses to Hurst L.D. Bell and Colleyville Heritage, the Mustangs headed west to Lubbock to play in the Caprock Classic holiday tournament and something clicked.
"We were playing Lubbock Estacado, who's made the state tournament and won state championships recently and we beat them by 23. It wasn't even close," Starnes said. "Everything was clicking, we had multiple kids scoring and that was the moment where I can say everything came together from that point on."
Grapevine has since won seven of eight district matchups to forge a three-team tie with Euless Trinity and Colleyville Heritage for second place. All three trail Irving MacArthur by just one game for first.
"Every night is just so close, but I do think the district title is still up for grabs because we still have Trinity and MacArthur left on the schedule," Starnes said.
Kennedale has toyed with most of its opponents this season on its way to a 26-2 record and No. 3 ranking in the Class 3A state poll.
To hear coach Doug Groff tell it all his team wants to do is play as he has to kick the team out of the gym every night.
"It's a funny group; when practice ends, they usually stick around and play crazy games where they split into two teams and shoot trick shots," Groff said.
"They're not sitting around talking. All 12 stay, they play these challenging shooting games and you watch them and one of my JV coaches told me the other day, 'this is why we win.'"
It also helps that the Wildcats (6-0 in District 6-3A) are a deep and talented squad. Kennedale's top four scorers are underclassmen, but everybody plays, everybody has a role.
They all share the ball, too. The Wildcats average over 18 assists a game and set a program record of 32 in a 98-49 win over Lake Worth on Jan. 15.
Six-foot-4 junior wing Ty Charles, who has drawn interest from the likes of Davidson, Utah State and Weber State, either leads Kennedale or is tied for the lead in scoring (16.1), rebounding (9.3), assists (5.0) and steals (3.0). Junior forward Aundre Jackson (16.1) and sophomore guard VJ Hughes (10.4) also average double digits in scoring for the Wildcats, but the core consists of eight seniors, who do the grunt work without complaint.
The mix of talent, camaraderie, leadership and unselfish play has Kennedale riding a 10-game winning streak and an average margin of victory of 44.3 points in district play.
"They get along great, there's been no discipline problems; it's fun coming to work," Groff said. "It's hard to tell how good we are right now, but they sure are a fun bunch."
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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