Mansfield, Timberview aiming for return to postseason

Posted Monday, Nov. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Neither Mansfield nor Timberview advanced to the postseason last year in boys basketball, but with a new season comes new hopes and expectations, and of course, new faces. Timberview graduated five seniors from last year’s squad, and Mansfield has a new leader on the bench in coach Jason Speakes.

Speakes takes the reins from retired Tigers coach Richie Alfred after spending nine years as an assistant, so he’s familiar with the players and the school but is attempting to put his own stamp on the program early on.

“I feel like we had a higher level of intensity,” he said of fall camp. “I felt like the competitive nature of our practices was higher. I think the demands from the coaching staff of the players was maybe greater than it’s been in recent years. As a result, I think it showed in our scrimmages.”

Among the teams Mansfield faced in scrimmage work was Arlington Martin, named by most as a top-10 team in the state in the preseason, and Speakes felt his group competed extremely well.

“No one wins a state championship in November, and we have scrimmages for a reason – to go work through some of the issues we may be having,” Speakes added. “I think we’re coming along defensively. I think we have a ways to go still to reaching the level of excellence that I want to have. But I think we’re clicking fairly well for this time of year on offense. We’ve got some weapons at the guard position that are attacking the basket and putting the ball in the hole.”

Among those weapons is senior guard Micah Littlejohn, a Tulsa signee who will be leaned on for leadership this season. Also catching the eye of Speakes early this season is junior Terrence Eason, a 6-7 post player who the coach expects to be a defensive force.

The Tigers haven’t reached the postseason in four consecutive years and are hungry to end that cold streak this season.

“I’m extremely optimistic for the next several week and then getting into district play,” Speakes said. “We feel like we’ve got a shot to wake some people up and surprise some folks.”

Timberview has some rebuilding to do after bidding adieu to five seniors from last year’s group that finished 23-8. But head coach Duane Gregory thinks the new faces simply lack experience, not talent.

“It’s just going to be a little different because some of these guys are going to take a little time to figure it out,” he said. “We can practice a million hours a day, but that doesn’t make up for actual game experience and that’s what the first order of this non-district schedule is going to be, to get some of these guys some game experience.”

On the upside, the Wolves have a pair of returning guards in Alex Robinson and Tyus Momoh who will lead the team on and off the court.

“I expect those guys to lead physically, verbally and from a camaraderie standpoint,” Gregory said. “Just teaching them how a varsity locker room works, how a varsity bus ride works, the time before a game when you’re waiting for the JV to finish. All those little things you might not think about, but they play into what you’re trying to do.”

Gregory also hopes Cep Abor will be a factor for the Wolves with his height.

“I think we’ll be a good defensive ball club like we normally are,” Gregory said. “I think offensively it’s going to take us a little time to gel and get things figured out, but that’s not unexpected given the new faces that we have.”

Mansfield and Timberview both open District 7-5A play on Dec. 17, and face each other three days later on Dec. 20.

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