With each team featuring one of the best players ever to put on a uniform for her school, the L.D. Bell Lady Raiders and Euless Trinity Lady Trojans are set for the final season for each of those players. And if things go as expected, both teams should not only be in the playoff mix but also in the hunt for the District 5-6A championship.
The Lady Raiders feature senior 6-1 forward Lexi Gordon, who averaged 25 points and nine rebounds. The Lady Trojans feature Trinity Oliver, who averaged 26 points,11 boards and four steals.
Gordon has committed to play in college for the University of Connecticut, the most renowned women’s program in the country. Oliver has committed to another perennial power, Baylor.
As freshmen, Gordon and 5-5 point guard/shooting guard Tiana Johnson were part of the best L.D. Bell girls basketball team ever. The Lady Raiders advanced to the Class 5A Region I finals, falling to perennial power Duncanville.
Now, as seniors, not only are they still on the team, they will be leading the squad as the Lady Raiders are on a quest for a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
“They bring experience and winning to every game,” Lady Raiders coach Brock Pembleton said of his four-year lettermen. “Lexi and Tiana came in together as freshmen in our district championship and regional finalist year. They have been to the playoffs all three years in a row.”
The duo are the only two returning starters from last season. They led Bell to a 20-11 overall record and an 8-4 mark in District 7-6A. However, the season came to an end with a 61-35 loss to South Grand Prairie in bi-district.
It was the second straight year in which the Lady Raiders fell in bi-district. In 2015 they were ousted by Duncanville, which had also ended their two previous seasons.
But while those seasons ended too soon for the Lady Raiders and their fans, Gordon and Johnson continued to gain valuable experience. Gordon, a three-time all-district honoree, was named district offensive MVP the past two seasons, along with earning Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and Texas Girls Coaches Association all-state honors. Johnson is a two-time all-district selection, including being named the league’s defensive MVP last season.
Gordon is also the program’s all-time leading scorer, including making 65 three-point baskets last season.
The Lady Raiders also have two clutch reserves back. Junior forward Aretha Nash and junior guard Lauren Cuevas are expected to move into the starting lineup.
As for newcomers, it just so happens the Gordon legacy will be carried on by her younger sister Myra, a freshman guard.
This will also be the third district in which Gordon and Johnson will play. This season the Lady Raiders will compete in District 5-6A, which also includes longtime rival Euless Trinity, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Lewisville Hebron, Flower Mound Marcus, Trophy Club Byron Nelson and Southlake Carroll.
Carroll has reached the playoffs nine straight years. Flower Mound is going for a fifth consecutive year in the postseason, including a state semifinals berth in 2015. Trinity is seeking a fourth straight playoff berth.
Marcus had an eight-year playoff run ended last season. Nelson had reached the postseason the previous three years, Lewisville missed the playoffs last season after a two-year run, and Hebron is also seeking a return after missing.
“Strong district,” Bell head coach Brock Pembleton said. “Every team has a shot at winning any game they play in district.”
Sue Cannon of Trinity is one of the winningest coaches in Texas high school history, entering this season with a record of 1,089-348, including a 711-270 record at the helm of the Lady Trojans.
And she appears primed to take her team to the playoffs for the 25th time in 31 seasons.
The defending district champion Lady Trojans, 28-4 overall last season with a 12-0 district record, return plenty of talent alongside Oliver, the overall district MVP. This includes fellow projected starters senior 5-5 point guard Haleigh Talbert (13.1 points, 3.2 assists), senior 5-5 guard Kayla Hunter (7.1 points, 4.1 assists), and senior 5-8 forward Maya Daley (3.6 rebounds).
“The expectations are very high,” Cannon said.
Talbert and Hunter were first-team all-district selections and Daley was named to the second team. Cannon was the league’s Coach of the Year.
Cannon was still looking at her options for a fifth starter as the season opener drew closer.
Junior 5-0 guard Angel Fripp is also a returning letter winner. Top newcomers include 5-5 sophomore guard Brit White, a move-in from Louisiana, and 5-7 freshman guard Makenzie Schilmoeller.
Talbert has committed to play for the University of California-Irvine next season.
The Lady Trojans’ 2015-16 season ended with a 44-42 loss to DeSoto in bi-district.