Seeking a fifth straight playoff appearance, the L.D. Bell Lady Raiders basketball team begins play in the tough District 7-6A on Friday with a home game against Southlake Carroll.
The Lady Dragons are among the top teams in the state according to rankings by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and Texas Girls Coaches Association. However, Lady Raiders coach Brock Pembleton doesn’t believe anyone is a cut-and-dried favorite in this talent-laden league.
“I believe that on any given night, anyone in our district can beat anyone,” he said. “I think the district champion could have at least one loss and there could be a play-in situation for the fourth spot.”
Entering play this past weekend, every team in the district except for Haltom had a winning record.
And though he opted not to name a dark horse or spoiler, Pembleton is confident his team will be among those near the top. He believes the challenging pre-district schedule his team has played will be a positive factor.
“Yes, we have played some strong teams in the preseason in order to be prepared for several different looks that we will see in district play,” Pembleton said. “We went 2-1 in the Flower Mound Tournament and 2-2 in the Cowtown Tournament. In both tournaments we won games that we should have won and lost a game that we could have won. But I think we have learned some things about ourselves that will help us in district games to come.”
The Lady Raiders (10-4) are led by 6-0 all-state junior forward Lexi Gordon, who is averaging nearly 30 points and 10 rebounds. And while she is among the best in the area, she has plenty of talent around her, including 5-5 junior guard Tiana Johnson.
“Tiana has played solid defense for us and has had to play a lot more point this year with Alexis Baston missing several games with a knee injury,” Pembleton said.
Other players to watch in the district are junior Priscilla Smeenge and senior Anna Hurlburt of Carroll, junior Trinity Oliver of Trinity, sophomore Bryn Gerlich of Colleyville Heritage, and senior Destiney Winkfield of Richland.
The Lady Raiders will not play their second district game until Jan. 2, when they host Coppell. Before then they will compete in a third tournament in Mansfield, which is always tough.
“We look forward to seeing tough competition and use the tournament to get back ready for district after the Christmas break,” said Pembleton, adding that it’s important they capitalize on having four of their first six district games at home.
“It’s always important to win at home and get what you can on the road,” he said. “We have Southlake and Coppell at home to open up district, Richland on the road, and then Trinity at home. Anything over .500 would be huge.”