Led by junior forward Lexi Gordon, the L.D. Bell Lady Raiders appear set to continue their basketball playoff streak.
Meanwhile, the boys are hoping to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. Coach Willie Henderson believes he has the team that can make a serious run at that goal.
The Lady Raiders return three starters from last season’s 17-15 bi-district qualifiers, their fourth straight playoff appearance. Along with the 6-foot Gordon (22.3 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 steals), 5-4 senior point guard Alexis Baston (8.8 points, 1.9 assists) and 5-5 junior guard Tiana Johnson (4.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.4 steals) are back.
Also back is 5-6 senior guard Tatyanna Bradley (4.2 points, 4.1 rebounds).
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Gordon was named all-state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and Texas Girls Coaches Association. Baston and Johnson earned all-district honors.
“Lexi had a great summer and is highly recruited across the country,” said Lady Raiders coach Brock Pembleton. “She is playing with even more confidence and maturity this year. My expectation for her is to keep improving both on offense and defense.”
Baston gets the offense running and has the ability to drive and hit three-pointers. Johnson is also accurate from three-point range and provides solid defense, as does Bradley.
The Lady Raiders play in the very tough District 7-6A, which includes Southlake Carroll, ranked No. 11 in the state.
“I feel Southlake is still the team to beat, but I feel that on any given night any one of our district teams can beat or upset anyone in the district,” Pembleton said.
“We must use the preseason and the tournament opportunities to be prepared to play our best basketball when district starts.”
Raiders take aim at postseason
It’s been a while since the Blue Raiders, 6-23 last season, experienced the postseason, but Henderson has reason to be optimistic.
First, the Raiders return two starters, 5-9 senior point guard Orphee Matafadi and 6-2 senior guard Ramish Maida.
Key role players include 6-3 senior forward Keinen Brown, 6-1 senior guard J.R. Choate, 6-2 senior post Boston Billings, 5-8 junior point guard Ondre Lacy, 6-2 junior forward Remon Toto, 6-0 senior guard A.D. Donald and 6-4 junior post Brendon Weatherspoon.
Also, a couple of new additions could help make a difference.
Hekim Lupai, a 6-2 senior guard, is up from the junior varsity. Also, 6-2 senior guard Terrell Harrison is a move-in.
“The addition of Terrell and Hekim make us a lot better,” said Henderson. “They are our best offensive players.”
And though it’s early, Henderson believes his team will be among those contending for a playoff berth out of 7-6A.
“Richland and Trinity have to be considered the best teams. They both return co-district MVPs,” said Henderson. “We should be in the mix.”