With only one starter returning from the most successful season in Brownwood Lady Lions basketball history, equaling last year’s run to Region I-4A tournament might be considered a lofty goal. Despite several new faces, the objective remains the same for head coach Heather Hohertz.
“Our expectations are to continue our success and build off of what we did last year,” Hohertz said. “Our expectation is to be able to compete for a district championship and make a run into the playoffs.”
The Lady Lions open the 2016-17 campaign at 6 p.m. Tuesday when they welcome Ballinger to Warren Gym.
Sophomore guard Mallory Garcia, the district newcomer of the year as freshman, will step into a more prominent role on the court after draining 61 three-pointers and averaging 10 points, 4.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals for a Lady Lions squad that posted a 25-8 overall record and reached the Region I-4A semifinals last season.
Other returnees include all-district honorable mention recipients senior Tyanne Stewart and junior Taytum Sutton, as well as Breyle Sauseda and Mya McDowell.
“Mallory will be in charge of running our team,” Hohertz said. “She will try and fill some of void from (two-time district MVP) Trejouir Wilson graduating. Tyanne and Taytum also return and will have bigger roles in our team this year. They both came off the bench and gave us some good minutes last year but they will be asked to give a lot more. We also return Breyle and Mya and both will also be asked to step up and have big years.”
A pair of transfers highlight the list of varsity newcomers as Sage Cupps and Sadie Smith join the roster, while Ryleigh Dalleh is moving up from the JV.
“Sage is a scorer that can light it up from 3-point range. She brings length and experience to us,” Hohertz said. “Sadie is a post player we are going to rely on heavily. She has good moves down low and plays extremely hard. And Ryleigh is a sophomore that played JV last year.”
With all the new faces, building chemistry will be among the primary goals during pre-district action for the Lady Lions. After Tuesday’s opener, Brownwood will face Bangs (Nov. 15), Abilene High (Nov. 22) and Fredericksburg (Dec. 16) on the road; host Hamilton (Nov. 29), Jim Ned (Dec. 2), Marble Falls (Dec. 6), Clyde (Dec. 13) and Brady (Dec. 20); and compete in the Coleman (Nov. 10-12), San Saba (Nov. 17-19) and Breckenridge (Dec. 28-30) tournaments prior to the start of District 5-4A competition.
“I want to see this team completely gel before the start of district,” Hohertz said. “I want them to be able to get the playing experience they need to play up to their ability and talent. We’re still trying to gel and mesh together as a team right now. We’re taking strides in the right direction but with new players it takes time to learn the defense and the system.”
As for the strengths of the group, Hohertz said, “Our post play should be just as good or better than last year. Our strength will be getting the ball inside. We have some good shooters and they can light it up. We’re still trying to find our identity, though, with all the new faces in the system.”
The Lady Lions will be competing against an entirely different batch of district opponents this season, with the exception of Abilene Wylie, in the revamped 5-4A. The Lady Lions host Wylie in the Jan. 6 district opener then visit the Lady Bulldogs Jan. 24. Sweetwater, Snyder and Big Spring round out the rest of the district slate.
“I know that Wylie will be the favorite,” Hohertz said. “They are good year in and year out. Graduation hit them hard as it did us, but the tradition is rich and they will be good again.
“Big Spring and Snyder have new coaches this year, so I don’t know much about them. Sweetwater has former Concordia University coach Rusty Rainbolt, who’s a great coach and I know he will have his girls ready and playing hard.”
As for the Lady Lions’ district outlook and beyond, Hohertz said, “This team has to gel as one and build that team chemistry. If we can do that, I believe in my mind we can make a deep run into the playoffs once again this year.”