5 storylines heading into UIL Girls Playoffs

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Amarillo High has advanced to the Region I-5A Tournament five of the past six years. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Amarillo High aims to prove elite status

This isn’t exactly an unfamiliar position for the Lady Sandies heading into the postseason against Lubbock Coronado. They’re ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 5A with a 27-5 mark and plowed through the competitive District 3-5A with an undefeated record. That’s something which has become expected under coach Jeff Williams, whose Sandies teams reached at least the region semifinals every year from 2015-20 and won back-to-back 5A state titles in 2018-19.

AHS seems well-equipped to make another trip to the state tournament in San Antonio. Senior forward Briley Barnes, who has signed to play at Tulsa, has proved as good as advertised this season. Junior McKenzie Smith has provided a solid second option as well.

Don’t count on the Sandies going away next year, either. Barnes is the only starter they’ll lose, as they start two juniors and two sophomores this year.

While having such talented youth is nice, that underscores the challenge they face this season: How will they respond to playoff pressure? That’s a pertinent question considering that the Sandies have to be hungry to erase the disappointment of last season’s unexpectedly early exit in the area round, an overtime loss to Canutillo.

Canyon’s Whitney Willeford goes in for a layup during a game earlier this season. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Canyon looking to repeat

As good as Amarillo High has been, Canyon has been an even more reliable playoff fixture. The Lady Eagles, 23-5, are the defending Class 4A state champions and are ranked No. 3 in the state. Like Amarillo High, Canyon stormed through District 4-4A undefeated, winning just about every game by a lopsided margin.

The Lady Eagles, who open the playoffs against Snyder, have relied heavily on three seniors who contributed to last year’s state championship run, Zoey McBroom, Taylor Thomas and Whitney Willeford. They don’t figure to be intimidated by any situation they’ll see over the next few weeks.

It seems almost a given that Canyon will be in the Regional Tournament starting a week from Friday. The Lady Eagles have been there each of the past 15 seasons and there isn’t any reason to expect them not to be there again this year.

Much like Amarillo High, though, postseason experience beyond a few players is a question for Canyon. The Lady Eagles didn’t have to play any real close games in district, and how they react to potentially much more competitive games in elimination situations has yet to be determined.

Canadian’s Mattie Boyd attempts a 3-pointer over Bushland’s Emma Troxell during a District 1-3A game earlier this year. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Class 3A Region I has serious power

Before the season started, expectations had already surrounded the difficulty Class 3A Region I represents.

But as the UIL playoffs rev up Monday the reality sets in when it comes to the depth of this region.

The past two State Champions have come from Region I (Shallowater, and Brownfield), and six of the eight teams this season reside in the top 10 in the state.

Canadian (31-1) enters the postseason ranked No. 1 in Class 3A. Canadian is 4-1 against No. 1-ranked teams this season. The Lady Cats are on a 10-game win streak led by West Texas A&M signee Mattie Boyd, who averages 17.2 points a game and 8.9 rebounds. The Lady Cats more than likely get a third round rematch against Shallowater coming soon. Defending state champion Brownfield, Idalou, Jim Ned and Peaster round out the difficult gauntlet. Bushland (22-7) isn’t ranked, but a sleeper team that could make noise.

Gruver and Texas Tech signee Bailey Maupin has scored a program-best 2,556 career points. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Can anyone stop Gruver

From November to February, the No. 1-ranked Gruver Lady Hounds have backed up every reason why they are the odds on favorite to make a push back to the Alamodome for the first time since winning the program’s first state title in 2019.

Gruver has beaten taken down anyone in its path on the way to an unblemished 26-0 record that include victories over Wichita Falls Rider, Canyon, Brownfield, Canadian, Idalou and Nazareth.

The Lady Hounds routed their District 1-2A opponents beating Sanford-Fritch, Stratford, Sunray, and WT High by nearly an average of 50 points a game.

It helps they boast the best player in the Texas Panhandle in Texas Tech signee, Bailey Maupin. Maupin, a four-year sensation at Gruver, is averaging 22 points a game, shooting 54 percent from the field, adding 7.5 boards a contest. She’s also the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,556 career points.

But it’s not just Maupin that makes the Lady Hounds go. Senior Camryn Armes is a sharp-shooter that can pull it from any part of the floor, and Callie Conyers with Brenna Butler bring much stability.

The question is, can Panhandle, Wellington or Farwell slow Gruver down in the region? Gruver vs. Panhandle is a very likely third round matchup. Farwell or Wellington would meet the Lady Hounds in the Regional Tournament.

Nazareth’s Mackenzy Corrales drives past a defender during a game earlier this season. [Cindy Huseman/ For Press Pass Sports]

Here we go again

When the UIL Girls Playoffs start, it’s a guarantee the Nazareth Swiftettes are the topic of conversation.

Nazareth’s reputation speaks for itself. The Swiftettes are a dynasty in the state of Texas winning 24 State Championships, more than any other girls basketball program, and have won six of the last seven UIL Class 1A State Championships.

But are the Swiftettes (20-11) once again the favorite to make it to San Antonio? With Head Coach Eric Schilling at the helm, and a No. 2-ranking, it’s hard to pick against the Swiftettes. Especially with the senior leadership Mackenzy Corrales, Addie Dyer, and Iris Schilderink. However, looming in the second round is a tough matchup with a very talented Claude team that Nazareth held off in last seasons Regional Final. Also, No. 1-ranked Sands (28-3) is more than likely looming at the Regional Tournament in Levelland. Sands beat Nazareth in a 43-42 overtime thriller earlier in the year.

But as time has told, never bet against the Swiftettes when it comes to the postseason.

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