Bishop Gorman challenged itself with a non-district scheduled that included the likes of Class 4A and 5A teams like Robert E. Lee, John Tyler and Lindale, as well as traditional powers from smaller classifications such as Liberty-Eylau and Martins Mill.
Now the Lady Crusaders begin their TAPPS slate, starting with the TAPPS 2-4A opener against Carrollton Prince of Peace tonight at 6 p.m. from Haddad Gym (with the Crusaders to follow at 7:30 p.m.).
In non-district action, Gorman (19-3) played one team it didn’t beat: Liberty-Eylau, which features two future Division I players. With four-time defending TAPPS 4A champ Houston Westbury Christian having graduated its most recent pair of Division I players, the Lady Crusaders won’t see anyone else like the Lady Leopards this year.
“In years past (Liberty-Eylau) would’ve been a team like Westbury we would’ve seen at state, but this year Westbury’s not the Westbury they’ve been in the past, and we won’t see a team like that again,” TKG coach Katie Robertson said.
“No other teams we play, especially within our district or playoffs, have two Division I guards like that.”
Gorman lost to Westbury Christian in the state semifinals last year and are among the favorites to return to the final four in Mansfield. The Lady Crusaders will begin that quest with a district they’ve dominated in recent years, winning four straight league crowns, including the last two in unbeaten fashion.
Fellow 2012 final four participant Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill poses the largest threat to Gorman’s hegemony, having taken the Lady Crusaders to the wire, 59-53, in the final regular season game last year.
The two meet on Jan. 15 in Cedar Hill. There is no return match in Tyler, as this year will be the first in which TAPPS 2-4A utilizes a district tournament after each team plays everyone once.
Because of that, Gorman played a doubleheader with Grace on Dec. 14, one that the home team swept at Haddad Gym. The return match at Grace is Jan. 25, when the game counts in the district standings. The Gorman boys also beat the Cougars in the Wagstaff Holiday Classic, rallying from a 21-point deficit to win 78-73.
Both the Grace girls and boys made the playoffs last year and the school will be looking to repeat that feat.
The Cougars finished fourth last year while All Saints and Gorman tied for fifth. This year five teams reach the playoffs from the nine-team district.
The Trojans have fared well thus far in coach Eddie Francis’ return to the bench. They come into district play at 17-8 having played a tough schedule. All Saints edged Class 4A Sulphur Springs in overtime on Friday and were runners-up in the Wagstaff Holiday Classic Gold Bracket, which included Gorman and Grace.
Coach’s son Aston Francis has led the way for All Saints with 16.2 points per game, one of seven Trojans scoring at least 5 points per outing.
All Saints opens at Dallas Christian today.
Grace has to start its district slate with the longest road trip; the Cougars teams travel to play Waco Reicher.
Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill won the boys title last year, followed by Dallas Parish Episcopal and Dallas Christian.