North Texas has long been known for its basketball talent, and at the heart are teams in the Focus Daily News coverage area.
This year looks to be no exception, with six boys teams and seven girls teams ranked in the top 25 in their respective divisions in the preseason polls released by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Three area squads sit at the top of their rankings, including two from the same school. Among Class 6A girls, the defending state champion Duncanville Pantherettes are ranked No. 1. Also, the Duncanville Panthers are the top-ranked team among 6A boys.
Topping the Class 5A boys ranks is Lancaster. Like Duncanville, they advanced to the state tournament last season, but could not see their way through to a championship when the tournament was canceled because of COVID-19.
Duncanville boys coach David Peavy said his team has adopted the motto “2 for 1” this season in light of having their title hopes taken away last season through no fault of their own.
“We didn’t put a banner up, no rings. Other teams claimed a state championship, but we didn’t,” Peavy said. “The good thing we can say is we had three seniors and all got a state championship the year before. That kind of helped ease the sting.
“But this team this year, it feeds our hunger. If we can win this one we’ll claim last year’s, two for one.”
Of course getting there won’t be easy, as it never is navigating through North Texas, and Peavy knows that. In fact, they share a district with two of the other top-ranked teams in the state.
“In our own district we’ve got to see Waxahachie (No. 5). Desoto (No. 23) is going to be strong, and then there’s (regional foes) Richardson (No. 2), Coppell (No. 17), Allen (No. 12), all will be good,” he said.
The Pantherettes are perennially a team everyone wants to beat and it will be the same in 2020-21. They, likewise, will have a serious threat in their district in another annual contender, DeSoto, ranked No. 23.
“Rankings are a target list and we’re just at the top of everyone’s,” Pantherettes coach LaJeanna Howard said. “Preparing our girls mentally and competitively is the key to our success in this season.”
At one point last season DeSoto was the No. 1 girls team in the nation. The Lady Eagles fell to Duncanville, 47-43, in the third round of the playoffs.
Also among the state-ranked boys teams from the area are Mansfield Timberview, No. 3 in Class 5A, and Wilmer-Hutchins, No. 21 in Class 4A. Timberview reached the state tournament last season, while Wilmer-Hutchins lost in the second, 62-60, to Oak Cliff Faith Family, which also advanced to state.
Also highly ranked among Class 6A girls is South Grand Prairie, which is No. 5 and looking to make a breakthrough to state.
“Being ranked fifth in the State is a tremendous honor and a statement on what our kids have done in the past and the work they’ve put in to this point. Although the preseason ranking is an honor, it’s also not what we will judge our season by,” Lady Warriors coach Brion Raven said. “Our expectation is to get to the state tournament. We’ve been one game away from that opportunity in the past, but our goal this year is to take that next step.”
In Class 5A, three area girls teams are ranked in the state’s top 10. Timberview, which reached the state semifinals last season, is ranked No. 3. Red Oak is No. 8 and Midlothian is No. 9.
Red Oak and Midlothian were each eliminated in the postseason by state champion Frisco Liberty. Red Oak was ousted in the semifinals, 42-36, and Midlothian in the finals, 48-43.
Also in the preseason girls Class 5A state rankings is Mansfield Legacy at No. 17.
In addition, two area private schools are among their respective state rankings. In Class A boys, DeSoto Canterbury Collegiate is ranked No. 1, while Waxahachie Prep Academy is No. 8 among private school girls.