On Dec. 9, District 10-3A opens the 2016-17 girls’ basketball season and it’s time to look into our crystal ball to provide a view of the league.
Starting at the top, it’s a two-team battle for the district championship this season. Whitewright and Leonard look to be a notch above the other five teams in the district.
Our opinion is that Whitewright has too much experience and talent for the Leonard Lady Tigers to overcome.
Zada Swoopes, who will be the district’s Most Valuable Player — barring injury — Jolie Donaldson and Jaiden Melichar will lead the team to back-to-back district titles. All three are seniors and that experience should pay off against a younger Leonard team.
Injury is always a concern and even more so at Whitewright as coach Landon Dyer shows only eight players on his varsity roster.
Swoopes, the straw that stirs this drink, missed her sophomore season due to a knee injury and if she goes out, all bets are off.
Whitewright lost just one district game last season and went three rounds deep into the postseason.
Coach Rae Holden at Leonard is probably still smarting over those two losses to Whitewright last year. His team dropped a couple of two-point decisions to Whitewright.
Leonard lost four straight after that second Whitewright victory, including its bi-district game versus Big Sandy Harmony.
The Lady Tigers have the talent, albeit young. The key players on this 2016-17 team, Jessi Bennett, Bridget Watson and Alyssa Davis are all juniors.
Bennett is the go-to player for Leonard and she, as they say in the trade, is a shooter. Watson and Davis bring some length to the lineup and they all excel on the defensive end. Leonard teams will press you till the final whistle.
Van Alstyne is our pick to finish third in the district, and that’s not a homer call.
With the improved play of sophomore Maegan Thomas in the post and the continued outstanding outside shooting of senior Madison Reno, this team is on the rise.
Injuries have plagued the team in the early part of the season and coach Tim Bryant is just now beginning to see what he has to send out.
Sophomore Bre McCaskill was out for the first 10 games with an injury and senior Carly Ochoa has been hampered by a knee injury, although she has played in the early games.
Another sophomore, Rylee Reece,gives the Lady Panthers more length in the post and she will add rebounding depth to the team.
Freshman guard Alexia Smith is a standout on the defensive end with very active hands.
Picking that fourth and final playoff team was the hardest part of this endeavor.
By default my choice is Lone Oak. That’s not based on any particular strength we can detect with the Lady Buffs — it has more to do with the shortcomings of the other three teams.
Howe, Farmersville and Commerce are going to struggle finding offensive spark in this very tough district.
Howe lost its top three scorers off of last year’s team and the Lady Bulldogs have struggled to find replacements on that end of the court.
Freshmen Ally Harvey and Jenna Honore are going to be really good players, just maybe not this year.
Junior Peyton Steetman was an all-district pick in 2015 and she will be expected to key the Howe offense. Senior Landry Rhoten has had some outstanding games rebounding for the Lady Bulldogs and she is a typical Howe player, smart, tough and will battle you all day.
Lots of those type of players on the Howe roster, just not enough offense to be picked higher.
Farmersville is another team that will struggle to score points this season.
We think they averaged about 30 points per game last year, and there’s not a lot of change in their roster.
Commerce, who knows. Getting information out of that part of the district is super sleuth work.
As an added bonus, at no extra charge, we are also going to give you our picks in District 9-3A. This is the district that will provide the opposition in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
Pottsboro is the clear choice to win this league.
With Haiden Wiliams, Madeline O’Hanlon and Hatty Shope, the Lady Cardinals have the tools to make an extended postseason run.
Long-time coach Keith Bates has only nine players on his varsity roster, but he has the ability to maximize their talents.
Whitesboro coach James Garner, going into his third season with the Lady Bearcats, will have his team on the heels of Pottsboro. We don’t think they have the depth, or experience necessary to upend the Lady Cards. Pottsboro beat the Lady Cats in both games last season, and by 10-points in each.
Karlee Schuessler is a great outside shooter, while Lauren Purdom and Destiny Mack give Whitesboro some length on the inside.
Lot’s of things can change between early season tournament wins and the district slate, but the Lady Cards beat Whitesboro at the Bells tournament in November.
Ponder had a very young team last season and if they take the next step, the Lady Lions should finish third.
That final playoff spot, fourth place, will be between Gunter and Pilot Point.
We think Gunter gets the nod, but not by much.
Callisburg and S&S will battle it out for seventh place in the seven-team league.
We won’t predict a perfect slate in our picks, like we had for the four pool winners at the Bells tourney, but we think its’ a pretty solid list.
We will let you know the results on Feb. 7.