Area high school girls basketball teams are making final preparations before entering the journey of the UIL playoffs, which begin Monday.
One might argue that in talent-laden District 7-5A, preparation began when the district schedule began in December.
Teams to watch
Arlington Bowie (29-5)
Bowie is the only Class 4A or 5A area school to finish with a 14-0 district record, claiming the District 3-5A title. Three of Bowie's five nondistrict losses came to District 7-5A teams: Mansfield Timberview, Duncanville and Cedar Hill. Heading into the final week of play, Bowie was ranked No. 10 in the state.
Mansfield Timberview (27-6)
Timberview is led by guard Lili Thompson, a Stanford commitment, but is full of top talent, especially in the junior class. Timberview coach Kit Martin said her junior class is being heavily recruited and already has one commitment in guard Terriell Bradley to Texas.
Colleyville Heritage (25-10)
Heritage finally broke out from under the reign of Irving MacArthur and took its first district championship in two years. Heritage faces Lewisville in the first round, which might be a tougher test after the return of TCU commit Jada Butts.
Aledo coasted through district play, losing just one game, 50-42 to Fort Worth Trimble Tech. They would rally to beat Trimble Tech in the second matchup later in the season, 48-40. Aledo made it to the second round of the 4A state playoffs last season, losing to Arlington Seguin 49-44. Aledo entered the final week of play ranked No. 15 in the state.
Kennedale is the other team in the area to finish with an undefeated league record, rolling through District 6-3A. Kennedale entered the final week of play ranked No. 3 in the state in 3A and beat the 2A No. 1 team, Brock, 50-38 earlier this year.
Three 7-5A teams were ranked in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches state poll last week, led by No. 1 Duncanville, with DeSoto at 13 and Mansfield Timberview at 14.
Timberview finished with a 27-6 regular-season record, 11-3 in district, but was second behind undefeated Duncanville. The defending state champion Pantherettes (35-0) are on a 63-game winning streak, the nation's longest.
"There weren't any gimmes," said Timberview coach Kit Martin, whose squad took Duncanville to overtime on Jan. 18 before losing 69-61. "It was a good district in my opinion because I'd rather it be that way. It prepares you better for the playoffs."
Timberview's success goes back even before district, taking both the Colleyville Heritage Tip-Off Classic title as well as the Katy-Nike Tournament championship.
It fell just short of a third tournament title, losing in the finals of the Mansfield Rotary Invitational to none other than district rival Cedar Hill.
On the other end of the spectrum is South Grand Prairie, finishing with a 20-13 overall record, but landing sixth in the district without a playoff berth.
While the hand dealt to South Grand Prairie wasn't ideal with the talent in the four playoff teams from the district, Warriors coach Dawn Mailoux-Smith said the district has done wonders for her program.
"There's two ways to look at it, you can look at it as the toughest and it's a bad thing, because I've had 20 wins but I didn't make it to the playoffs. But the growth I've seen in my program because of the teams we play night in and night out and prepare for, going from an eight-win season to a 20-win season, I contribute that to the level of competition we compete against," she said.
Mailoux-Smith agrees that her district is the most competitive in the state and predicts a dual-7-5A region final.
One of those teams she said she could easily see playing for a state tournament bid is Timberview.
"I think they have the potential to make a very deep run with the arsenal of players they have," she said.
Before Timberview reached that point in the playoffs, they would potentially have to face the champion from another one of the area's top districts, Colleyville Heritage (25-10), in the second round.
Coming from another highly competitive district in the state, Heritage coach Dianna Sager said she knows what it's like fighting for every win to ensure the best possible playoff seeding.
"We are very similar that the top four could have gone any way, like District 7," Sager said. "I do think it is to your advantage that if you take care of business during district, it kind of helps you out in the first round of the playoffs."
Every coach agreed, however, that a team can do everything it needs to ensure good seeding and build momentum, but a state title always comes with a little bit of luck.
"We learned a lot about ourselves, and it's about the right team getting on the right roll at the right time, and that's where a little bit of luck can never hurt you," Martin said.
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