There are a few certainties in life — death, taxes and Trinity Valley advancing to the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“It’s the culture,” Trinity Valley head coach Gerald Ewing said. “It will never change, no matter who the coach is.”
The Lady Cardinals have qualified for the national tournament in 11 straight seasons. They will aim for 12 in a row in 2018-19 while also vying for their first national title since 2014.
In 2018, Trinity Valley finished as the national runner-up for the third consecutive year, falling to Tallahassee in the championship game, 69-51.
With a deep roster in his possession, Ewing likes the Lady Cardinals’ chances of being a national title contender once again.
“The key to this season is we have a roster of 13 or 14 kids,” the coach said. “Last year, we had 10 on our roster and played a rotation of seven. This year, I feel like our second six or seven can start at almost any other junior college in the country. I think that depth will help us hopefully be able to wear people down.”
Among the newcomers for the Lady Cardinals are Texas-Arlington transfer Jennifer Parker, Arkansas State transfer Tayton Hopkins and University of New Mexico transfer Jasmine Smith. Curtessia Dean, Amber Hawkison and Solmilena Herrera are freshmen who could contribute early.
Returning for Trinity Valley are point guard Tra’dayja Smith, Arleighshya McElroy, Tyasia Moore and Jada Wright.
Smith played the 2017-18 season with a torn meniscus and is back to 100 percent this season. McElroy was a top 40 player coming out of high school and had originally signed with Texas A&M.
Wright, a 6-3 post, has recently visited West Virginia and is considered one of the top five players in the country at the junior college level.
Wright would be the top-ranked player in most conferences in the country, but the No. 1 player also plays in Region XIV — Angelina’s Natasha Mack.
Mack — from Lufkin — averaged 22 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.1 blocks per game last season.
“It’s been great,” Angelina head coach Byron Coleman said. “She has no doubt helped put Angelina on the map. We know this is a key year for us having the No. 1 player in the nation, so we have to work hard and make it count.”
Before Mack heads off to a four-year university, Coleman hopes she can help the Lady Roadrunners compete for the top spot in Region XIV.
Panola and San Jacinto both joined Trinity Valley in Lubbock last season for the national tournament.
The 2017-18 season was the final campaign for the San Jacinto program, but Panola (25-7, 16-4) should be back in the mix in the top of the conference.
Jacksonville (21-6, 15-5) was declared ineligible for the postseason in 2017-18 and is now under the direction of new head coach Savannah Carter.
Tamaria Manning and Nyenkeer Malwal are back from the Jacksonville squad, but they averaged just a combined 3.6 points per game as freshmen.
The Lady Jaguars will need immediate contributions from newcomers Allissia Green, Odalis Carrillo, Na’Kendra Ellis, McKayla Black, Ca’Leyah Burrell, Tionna Chatman, Raveon Rodriguez, Kailen Higgins and Alexis Wheeler.
Kilgore also had a coaching change as Anna Nimz became an assistant at Texas-Rio Grande Valley. The Lady Rangers were in the Region XIV title game a season ago and are now coached by Addie Lees, who comes to Kilgore from Texas State, where she served as an assistant coach.
Tyler will look to climb back near the top of the league standings after a rough 2017-18 season that finished with a 13-18 overall mark and a 7-13 conference record.
“Injuries got to us last season,” Tyler head coach Trenia Tillis-Hoard said. “At the end of last season, we ended with just seven players. The players were talented but you can only do so much in this league with a light bench. I’m excited to be going in with a full squad.”
Trelynn Tyler and Kierra Brimzy are the lone returners for the Apache Ladies.
Tyler added Houston transfer Quatera Limbrick, Houston Baptist transfer Kennedy Burks and former three-time high school state tournament qualifier Te’Aire Hambrick from Class A LaPoynor.
“She is a workhorse who was overlooked out of high school,” Tillis-Hoard said of Hambrick. “We are excited to have her.”
Paris, Bossier Parish and Coastal Bend will look to try to climb up the conference standings.
Bossier Parish welcomes in Brenda Welch-Nichols as its new head coach. She spent the past 12 years as the head coach at Sam Houston State University.
Welch-Nichols started her career at Pensacola Junior College. She was the head coach at Okaloosa-Walton Community College and Western Texas. She was an assistant coach at South Alabama and Memphis before becoming the head coach at Mercer University.
Welch-Nichols has an overall record of 259-378.
Welch-Nichols takes over a Lady Cavs team that will be led by Monette Bolden, Deanna Perry and Wairia Henderson.
Coastal Bend will be under the direction of second-year coach Nathan Purswell. The Lady Cougars went 3-27 overall and 0-20 in league play last season.
Purswell hopes the return of Emiko Hemphill and Angelina Barela, along with the additions of Jada Mitchell, Marley Martinez, Cassie Hogan, Essence Richards, Aubrey Guerra, Tainie Johnson and Francheska Aguino can help his team take a step forward.
“I have a hard working group that can shoot,” Purswell said. “We should be able to utilize our guard play and post play this season.”
In the Region V Western Junior College Athletic Conference, New Mexico is expected to be a frontrunner once again. The Thunderbirds have made five trips to the national tournament since 2012, including last season when they reached the quarterfinals.
“There’s no secret,” New Mexico head coach Drew Sanders said. “The first thing is to have talented players. Once they get here, it’s a matter of getting them to work hard and focused in the same direction.”
New Mexico returns Thamires Andrade (7.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season) and Jurnee President (7.8 points and 2.5 assists in 2017-18). Among the newcomers are Kansas State transfer Eternati Willock — a 6-4 center — and Incarnate Word transfers Sydnee Wynn and Laci Hawthorne. Monmouth transfer Selina Dockery could also play a large role for the Thunderbirds.
Looking to battle New Mexico at the top of the WJCAC is Midland, which has compiled a 608-177 record in 24 seasons under the direction of Ron Jones.
Midland returns 6-3 Ella Tofaeono (11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds last season), Bethany Theodore, 6-6 Wiebke Schwartau, Ogechi Nwodo and Abbi Hatton.
Odessa, which was a national tournament participant in 2017-18, is also expected to be a contender for the conference title.
Frank Phillips joined Midland, New Mexico and Odessa at the Region V Tournament last season and will battle with South Plains, Howard, Western Texas and Clarendon for that spot once again.
Clarendon has Kaleigh Stolz returning, and Kai-Lee Valentine, Carria Smith and Jemma Bennett are notable newcomers.
“We will look a lot different than we did last season,” Clarendon head coach Mark James said. “We lose all five starters from a 20-win team. We will be young and inexperienced. How quickly we gel as a team will go a long way in determining the success of this year’s team.”
In the Region V North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, Collin County, Hill, Ranger, Grayson and McLennan are expected to battle for the league title.
Hill returns eight players, including Miranda Stephens (11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 2017-18), Jade Compton (second leading rebounder in the conference) and Kelsey Crouse). Howard transfer Cierra Morris will join Hill, along with a host of freshmen.
“This will definitely be our deepest and most athletic team,” Hill head coach Scott Hyland said. “We’ve bulked up our non-conference schedule. We have one of the best regions in the country, and we’ve been fortunate to make it to the tournament the last four years. We think we have a squad that can get there once again and make some noise.”
McLennan returns Meakeyleetrieceiavia Norlin, Raveen Blue and Desirae Devine. The Highlassies also got transfers Harmony Pettis (Missouri Valley College), Anastacia Mickens (Sam Houston State) and Arial Elzie (Allen Community College).
Among the newcomers for McLennan are 6-6 Seynabou Thiam and 6-5 Shequana Jackson. Ny’Asia Goldman, Jada McHenry, Kenidi White and Gabby Cleveland are freshmen expected to make an immediate impact.
Temple and Weatherford hope to find their way into the top four
For Temple, Kim Sebek will enter her 21st season as the head coach. After a 16-13 campaign in 2017-18, Temple is looking to rebound and challenge for a spot in the Region V Tournament.
Returning for Temple are Doriana Brown, Alena Johnston, Makayla Gatewood and Ayleen Carrizales. Temple also welcomes transfers from San Jacinto (Erin Brumley) and Tyler (Treazure Mouton).
Cisco and Southwestern Christian round out the NTJCAC.
Cedar Valley and Mountain View compete in the Region V Dallas Athletic Conference in NJCAA Division III.
This will be the inaugural season for Cedar Valley.
PREDICTIED ORDER OF FINISH:
- Trinity Valley
- Bossier Paris
- Coastal Bend
- New Mexico
- South Plains
- Western Texas
- Frank Phillips
- Collin County
- Southwestern Christian
- Mountain View
- Cedar Valley