GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEWS: Marble Falls, Burnet, Llano, Faith Academy

MARBLE FALLS LADY MUSTANGS

HEAD COACH: Chris Jost

DISTRICT: 25-4A

2012-13 RECORD: 19-14 overall and 5-7 in district for fifth place

RETURNERS: Sarah Stripling, Blanca Fonseca, Haley Stephens, Teagan Hall, Emily Klingsporn, Hanna Wall and Reann Hall

HOME OPENER: Kerrville Tivy at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at Max Copeland Gym, 2010 Mustang Drive in Marble Falls

2013 OUTLOOK: The Lady Mustangs needed one more win to qualify for the playoffs in 2012 with three games left. But they didn’t get it. Jost, who is entering his second season at Marble Falls, said he believes the team’s final loss last season has driven his returners to spend time in the weight room, attend basketball camps and play in spring and summer leagues. And he beefed up the pre-district schedule to “hopefully, get us battle-tested for district play.”

“With our seven returnees, we return nearly 80 percent of our offense from last year,” he said.

Jost said one key ingredient to the Lady Mustangs’ success in 2013 will be the play of their posts, adding the position must contribute more points, rebounds and improved defense. Guard play, thanks to Stripling, Fonseca and Stephens, should be a strength for the squad. Stephens returned after a knee injury that forced her to miss most of December and the entire district campaign in 2012.

“She plays so well with Sarah and Blanca,” Jost said. “It adds to the entire team chemistry. She’s a natural fast-break warrior. We’re looking for her to get down the floor.”

Cedar Park Vista Ridge, the defending district champion, is currently ranked No. 4 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, while Leander is No. 8. After those squads, Jost said he believes there’s more parity within the division, which means a fight for the final two playoff spots.

“In order to find our way to the postseason, we need to decide that we can play with anyone in our district and then go out and play like it each game.”

BURNET LADY DAWGS

HEAD COACH: Doug Messer

DISTRICT: 8-3A

2012-13 RECORD: 19-13 overall, 7-3 in district play

RETURNERS: Riley Scott, Sarah Poe, Danielle Lindley, Shaylah Hullum, Amber Sprankle, Samantha Richter, Lauren Beckwith, Valerie Solis, Brooke Hemphill, Makayla Light and Hannah McCurry

NEWCOMERS: Mikayla Warden, Te’Rah Buck, Rachel Adair

HOME OPENER: Salado at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at The Doghouse, 1000 The Green Mile in Burnet

OUTLOOK: The Lady Dawgs will be guided by a new head coach this season, though Messer has been a member of the Burnet staff for years. When former coach Mike Cavender resigned to take a job at Cedar Park High School, Messer was the choice because of his familiarity with the athletes, the working relationships he established with members of Burnet Consolidated Independent School District and the fans.

Burnet will be led by junior point guard Scott, who has devoted her offseason to improving her game by playing on select teams.

“We have a great nucleus of returners with varsity experience,” Messer said. “We are looking to continue to build upon these returners.”

Players expected to contribute include Poe, Lindley, Hullum, Richter, Beckwith and Solis.

As a group, the Lady Dawgs have played in a fall league at Marble Falls and other summer leagues.

Liberty Hill is the defending district champion, and Brownwood and Burnet qualified for the playoffs in 2012. Four playoff spots are up for grabs this season.

“I feel like our district will be much stronger this season,” Messer said. “I believe we will be right in that mix.”

LLANO LADY JACKETS

HEAD COACH: Joe Downey

DISTRICT: 8-3A

2012-13 RECORD: 4-6 in district

RETURNERS: Claire Williams, Lacey Redden, Cierra Caffey, Sarah Hasty, Alyssa Reasoner and Ericka Tisdale

NEWCOMERS: Shaylee Jameson, Courtney Mize and Brenna Owens

HOME OPENER: Harper at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at Llano Gym, 2509 Texas 16 South in Llano

2013 OUTLOOK: New head coach and girls coordinator Joe Downey takes over the Lady Jackets program to begin his first season in Llano. He said the players have productively used their offseason by playing in the Mason fall league and during the summer. And since volleyball season ended Oct. 30, he was able to conduct his first practice with the entire team at 6 a.m. the next day.

The team is led by seniors Caffey, Hasty, Reasoner and Tisdale. Junior post Williams and Redden also will be big contributors. And if the sophomores improve, the coach said they “will really solidify the guard position.”

Downey said the district favorites are Liberty Hill and Burnet.

“Our district should be extremely competitive,” he said. “If we continue to work hard and gel, we will be very competitive. We are excited to begin our season.”

FAITH ACADEMY LADY FLAMES

HEAD COACH: Jerry English

DISTRICT: 5-2A of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools

2012-13 RECORD: 36-3 overall and 8-0 in district

RETURNERS: Taylor Denton (first team all-state and first team all-district), Juliette Fisher (second team all-state and first team all-district), JoAnna Piatek (first team all-district), Kristen Cherry (first team all-district), Sierra Brinkley

NEWCOMERS: Alisha Williams, Jessica Beckner, Laura Benac, Marissa Perea

HOME OPENER: Khabele at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at The Fire Pit, three miles east of Marble Falls off RR 1431

2013 OUTLOOK: The Lady Flames, ranked No. 2 in the small private schools poll of the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, qualified for their fifth Class 2A state tournament under English’s direction in 2012. This season, he begins his ninth season at the helm and his 40th overall.

Faith will lean heavily on junior point guard Denton, who is known for her long-range shooting, and seniors Fisher, Piatek and Cherry. All three are versatile enough to play at the forward, high post and low post positions, depending on personnel on the court. And that will be important as Faith looks for a new shooting guard after Bailey Brinkley graduated last year. Brinkley was known for her drives to the basket from the perimeter and her speed in finishing fast breaks.

Just as impressive as Faith’s postseason history is its district winning streak of 77 consecutive victories. That ties English’s longest district winning streak of his career. It began when he was the head coach at Sweeny several decades ago.

jfierro@thepicayune.com