KINGMAN - Five of the six players in Danny Gonzalez's rotation last year were seniors. That Kingman High girls basketball team reached the quarterfinals in the AIA Division II State Championship tournament.
"We have a saying - 'tradition never graduates,'" Gonzalez said. "All of our seniors have left a little bit of themselves in our program for the others to carry on and emulate."
This year's team is going to have to fill those big empty shoes left by five seniors, and they've been going to it.
"They are all working hard to find their place and to make their own bit of Bulldog history," the coach said. "We're working just as hard as all the other teams. Maybe harder because of the target on our back."
Kingman went 24-5 last year, including 2-1 in the state tournament. Other teams across D-II know who the Lady Bulldogs are. They know only junior Desirae Gonzalez returns from that core of six and that she led Kingman in scoring with 18.2 points per game. Those opponents are not going to let Gonzalez make up the 44.5 points per game the other five combined for.
"Des has had to carry a little of the load each year and this year isn't any different," Coach Gonzalez said. "I believe she knows what her role is. How she handles that we will just have to wait and see."
Seniors Carly Lawrence, McKell Old Bull and Nickole Garcia, along with junior Kim Carroll are expected to pick up the slack left by last year's group. Playing basketball over the summer at least gave Gonzalez some ideas for the season.
"The summer was big for us," the coach said. "We've had to go back to teaching instead of building, which may put us back a little because of the numerous plays we run."
Even with the teaching that Kingman has endured to begin the season, Gonzalez expects his Lady Bulldogs to come out attacking.
"I hope to still be competitive and maybe even surprise some teams," the coach said. "We still have returning players who don't want to give up the taste of the state playoffs. We will come out each night and give it our best shot."
Kingman opens the season on the road against Kingman Academy (3-14, 2013) at 7 p.m. Monday. Lee Williams hosts River Valley at the same time and night in the Lady Vols' season opener.