As they celebrate the opening of a new gym in Lipan, the expectations of what goes on inside are the same old plans.
The Lipan Indians are set to start another basketball season, and just as always they have their sights set on getting to Austin and the Class A Division II State Tournament.
“The key to getting back to Austin is getting hot at the right time and the team really coming together as a group,” said Lipan coach Cody Chandler.
The Indians last made it to Austin in 2009, losing to Slocum in the semifinals. However, they continue to come close to returning, including last season’s regional semifinals loss to district foe Graford.
The Indians return several lettermen from last season’s 25-11 squad. Also, the junior high lost just three games.
Among those returning are senior forward Blake Williams, senior guard Colby Clinton and junior forward Tanner Richardson. Williams was the District 16-A Defensive MVP, while Clinton was second-team all-district, and Richardson was honorable mention.
Newcomers who could make an impact include sophomore Joel Rice and freshman Kyle Mercer, Chandler said.
The Indians enter the season ranked 17th in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. And while they are annually picked to challenge for the district championship (they won it last season), District 17-A opponents Huckabay (No. 10) and Lingleville (No. 14) are ranked ahead.
“Our district is the toughest it’s been since I’ve been here,” said Chandler.
Lingleville advanced to the Region IV semifinals last season, Huckabay reached the Region IV quarterfinals, and Gorman (also in 17-A) made it to the second round.
Lipan has advanced to the regional tournament 11 straight seasons and has won a playoff game in 21 consecutive seasons.
“The region will be really tough as Roxton has advanced out of Region III the last two years, and they have nearly all of their players back,” said Chandler.
The road through regionals in Tyler and on to state will pass through Roxton, No. 1 in the state.
The new gym is an inspiration to his team, said Chandler. In fact, it’s an inspiration to just about everyone in Lipan as it was finally finished this year thanks to a $2.5 million bond package. It was started in 1999, but funding ran out, so games continued to be played in the much smaller gym that became something of a legend around the area.
“We are hoping that the open space in the new gym will better help us prepare for gyms that we will play in for the playoffs,” said Chandler.
The Indians will not play in their new gym until Nov. 24 when they host Santo in homecoming.
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