Young Neches still with high expectations

Published on Saturday, 3 November 2012 23:17 - Written by Shane Stark

Roddricka Patton.

Kristen Green.

Raven McFarland.

Lyric Duncan.

And Cheyenne Haskins.

Those five players helped the Neches girls basketball team accomplish something highly rare in high school sports — three consecutive state titles. That’s something Lady Tigers coach Andy Snider is beginning to appreciate more and more.

“When you are in the community, you kind of understand how big it is but you really don’t know,” he said. “And when you get your peers together it kind of puts a different (perspective) on it.”

This season Neches will have to make it back to Austin without the aforementioned players because of graduation. And with the rise to Class 1A Division I, the Lady Tigers will face a big challenge during the upcoming months.

When Neches begins the season Monday against Palestine, the focus will shift to a foundation when it comes to the roster. No longer will three-time state MVP Patton (now at Trinity Valley) be dribbling the ball up and down the floor in the countryside of Anderson County, something that places questions marks on the Lady Tigers.

In the preseason Texas Association of Basketball Coaches rankings, Neches is No. 16 and well behind Region III foes Martins Mill (No.1), Kerens (No. 3), Lovelady (No. 9) and Slocum (No. 15). But that doesn’t mean expectations have lessened for the Lady Tigers, who’ve been to four consecutive Division II state title games.

“I think it gives (the players) some confidence, but I also think it’s a negative to some degree because a couple of them don’t have the fire yet because they’ve been there, done that,” Snider said. “But they’ve been there, done that on somebody else’s shirt tail. I haven’t seen a couple of them step up yet.”

The top returning player, senior guard/forward Kiandra Taylor, is expected to miss the first couple of weeks with an injury. That means the leadership role will be placed into the hands of 5-11 junior forward Kamry Kinder and 5-9 forward/center Kelsey Wade, as well as new starting point guard Mary Williams, a junior.

“They could have actually started and now they are actually starting,” Snider said. “I think it allows them to become themselves more. They are still following Kiandra to some extent. But it’s a new era for them.”

Notes: The Lady Tigers are the 10th team in the past 31 years to win three consecutive state championships, and the first 1A team to do so since Nazareth claimed four straight in the early 1990s.