Once again the Lipan Lady Indians enter a season as a team to beat in Class A Division II basketball.
Lipan, which has become a perennial power under coach Amber Branson, is ranked second in the state behind state semifinalist Roscoe Highlands.
The Lady Indians had a streak of back-to-back state tournament appearances end last season in the third round by Coolidge 71-65. Lipan finished 32-5, sharing the District 17-A championship with Strawn and spending most of the season ranked first or second in the state.
“It’s flattering, but it’s just a number on a piece of paper,” said Branson. “You still have to play the games.
“Losing in the quarterfinals was tough on all of us. I think it has given everyone a new outlook on this year. The girls don’t want to have that feeling again.”
And with four starters and four reserves returning, the majority of the team remembers that feeling.
The Lady Indians return 5-9 sophomore guard Lanie Roberts, the 17-A Newcomer of the Year last season. She averaged 17.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.2 steals and 4.3 assists.
Alongside her is the 17-A Defensive Player of the Year, 5-8 senior forward Kayla Wheeler. She averaged 2.7 steals, 7.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Also returning in the starting lineup are 5-11 senior center Shauna Coleman and 5-7 senior guard Tallen Halliday. Coleman missed most of the district schedule last season.
As for district, Branson sees Strawn as the chief challenger again. The Lady Greyhounds enter the season ranked eighth in the state on the heels of a regional semifinals appearance.
Concerning the region, Branson listed the Lady Greyhounds as one of the top teams as well. Two years ago Strawn and Lipan met in the regional final.
The region has a lot of good teams in it, Strawn, Saltillo (No. 13 in state), Coolidge (No. 19), Frost (No. 21) are all strong teams,” said Branson.
Last season the Lady Indians and Indians moved into a new gym on their campus. This season they will host a tournament Dec. 5-7. Among the teams expected to attend are Tenaha, Texline, Paducah (No. 25 in Class A D-II), Baird (No. 17 in Class A D-II), Blum and Keene.
“The tournament will be fun to host,” said Branson. “It will be a great way to showcase our facility.”
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