Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
The Alex High School boys basketball team is 6-1 this season (not including the Dec. 13 home game against Paoli), with its only loss coming in the Christian Heritage Tournament to Perry, a class 3A school.
The Longhorns finished fifth in the tournament, winning their last two games against Little Axe (3A) and Crossings Christian School (B) in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Alex followed up the tournament with a 66-45 win over Rush Springs (2A) on the road Tuesday night.
The Longhorns are scheduled to play Verden High School tonight in Verden, their second-to-last game before having three weeks off for winter break.
Head coach Isaac Byrne said balanced scoring has been the key to the Longhorns' strong start this season.
"We've been pretty balanced," Byrne said. "We've put ourselves in pretty good opportunities to win games with our balance. Our post play and guard play have both been really good."
Alex has had several different leading scorers in seven games this season. Zach Mainka, Ryland Ketchum, and Shaedon Castor have all led the team in scoring in at least one game this season.
"The other night, we played Rush Springs," Byrne said. "Mainka had 14 points, Cody Carnes had 14 points and Castor had 18 points."
Castor, who is playing his first season with the Longhorns, has helped the team a lot already, Byrne said.
"The key that's got us going is our move-in point guard, Shaedon Castor," Byrne said. "He's really sparked our team and done a pretty good job."
The Longhorns have played some bigger schools this year, and Byrne said the tougher competition has paid off for his team.
"They're just bigger," Byrne said of the 3A schools the Longhorns have played. "The kids overall are bigger, faster, stronger than the competition we're used to at the class A level. Those guys just play the game at a different speed. It's helped us being around competition like that, and has kind of made us grow up a little bit.
The Verden Tigers are 7-3 so far this season, with losses to Lookeba-Sickles (B), Amber-Pocasset (2A) and Apache (2A). The loss to Apache came in the Minco Bulldog Classic tournament, where the Tigers finished third.
"We know Verden is going to be a tough game," Byrne said. "They're good. It's important for us to keep that momentum going, because we feel good about what we've got going on now."
The Alex High School girls basketball team is 2-5 (before the Dec. 13 Paoli game) and lost three straight games starting in the second round of the Christian Heritage Tournament on Dec. 7.
The Lady Longhorns have been hindered by a number of injuries in the early part of the season, and probably won't be back to full strength until January.
"Right now, we've been struck with some major injuries," head coach David Rosenberg said. "We've been struggling. There are a lot of people playing in positions right now and playing minutes that we had not really planned on them playing."
Autumn Zachary, who started every game last season for Alex, has been out all year with a knee injury. Freshman Cerissa Jones, who has been starting this season, has been in and out of the lineup with a hamstring injury. She tweaked it again on Tuesday, and will probably sit out until after winter break.
In the meantime, some of the younger players are seeing major minutes, something Rosenberg said could build the team's depth.
"Some of the younger girls, the freshmen and sophomores, have been getting a ton of minutes," Rosenberg said. "The time on the floor is really good for them. When we get completely healthy, with the roles they'll be playing, they'll be a lot more comfortable on the floor in the lesser roles."
Rosenberg said the few weeks off from games during winter break will be a welcome break as his team tries to get healthy.
"The girls definitely want to be playing and be in the gym, but I think some of the older ones understand that this break is going to be good for these girls that need to be healthy. I predict us to be 100 percent healthy when the Longhorn Classic rolls around on Jan. 7."
The Verden Lady Tigers are 5-5, and have won two straight games. Verden beat Riverside (3A) in the third-place game of the Minco Bulldog Classic, 42-36 on Dec. 8 and then beat Fletcher (A) at home, 42-18 on Tuesday.
The Alex girls will play the Lady Tigers at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Verden, followed by the boys game at 8 p.m.