Northeast Tarrant

Looking at basketball’s early season, plus football playoffs picks

As we get closer to Thanksgiving, that means both the boys and girls basketball seasons are in their infancy stages.

Of course, with football and volleyball playoffs still dominating our coverage, we had to wait for some of those seasons to end before we could really give you a sketch as to what to expect in 2013-2014.

Some of the girls teams have played four to six games and are about to hit more tournament action as the non-district season heats up. The boys season is one or two games old.

Let's start with the girls.

Carroll and Colleyville Heritage should be our best teams. The Lady Dragons are loaded on offense with point guard Kennedy Leonard, shooting specialist Gretchen Morrison and the intriguing Rebecca Gordon. This team should be the District 4-5A favorite. There might be a bit of a challenge from Richland and Keller. What coach Teri Morrison has to hope for is getting a little more production from the block.

As for Colleyville Heritage, don't judge Dianna Sager's team for its non-district schedule record. It's always a little beat up by the time the district season starts in mid-December. She has a great post in Artavia Ford and solid guard play from Salina Apodaca and Victoria Bratcher. There will be the tussle with Irving MacArthur for the District 6-5A championship.

The two stories to watch will be at Northwest, where Rusty Johnson has started his first year and already has the program at 4-3. That may not sound like much, but considering this program won only two games in 2012-2013, it's a breath of fresh air. I also think Grapevine should be a little better this year. There is some experience returning for Steve Ganninger's team that made the playoffs.

Now, let's switch to the boys.

Keep your eye by the programs near the Texas Motor Speedway in Northwest and Byron Nelson.

At Northwest, Mike Hatch believes this could be the best team he's fielded in his seven seasons there. Point guard Josh Tatum, who seems like he's been there as long as Hatch has, returns to run the offense. The Texans should be in contention for the District 4-5A championship with Richland. Carroll and Keller should be playoff contenders.

Nelson has most of its top players returning from the Class 4A Region I finalist squad, including 6-6 junior post Emanuel Nzekwesi and a solid cast between 6-4 Cale Popovich and 6-2 Thomas Williams. Finding a ballhandler and floor general for the graduated Kenyunta Watkins is the challenge.

At Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage, those teams should be playoff contenders in 6-5A.

Playoff Picks

I don't enjoy being right about games when you want all of your teams to do well. But my instincts told me the Colleyville Heritage and Northwest football teams were in for tough playoff matchups. Of course, the Panthers were their own worst enemy with four turnovers and a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in the 44-34 loss to Denton Ryan. Northwest couldn't hold a 29-21 lead going into the fourth quarter against Arlington Lamar and lost 36-29. That said, we went 5-1 in our selections, with Keller Fossil Ridge and Carroll still remaining. That puts us at 62-15 for the season. Here we go for the area round:

Midland Lee (9-2) vs. Carroll (10-1); 7 p.m. Friday, Chisholm Trail High School, Saginaw (Class 5A Division I Area): Take two. We just saw this matchup on Sept. 6 when the Dragons blew away the Rebels, 63-14. Obviously, Lee is better now. But so is Carroll. And Ryan Agnew has been playing at a high level for the last five weeks. I could see it being a little closer, but not by much.

Prediction: Carroll 49, Midland Lee 17

Keller Fossil Ridge (8-3) vs. San Angelo Central (10-1); 1 p.m. Saturday Shotwell Stadium, Abilene (Class 5A Division II Area): I really like the way Panther QB Jacob Gnacinski is playing. He's thrown for 2,452 yards and 25 TDs. And the defense is stepping up at the right time. This is a good team that faces a great challenge from SAC because the Bobcats are averaging 47 points per game. But there's that Fort Worth-Dallas mindset in me saying that the Fossil Ridge's 8-3 has more teeth to it than Central's 10-1. This would be unprecedented for the Panthers, but I think they find a way.

Prediction: Keller Fossil Ridge 34, San Angelo Central 30