KINGMAN - The Division III, Section VI high school girls basketball race should be interesting this season with Kingman and Lee Williams vying for the section championship and automatic berth into the state playoffs.
Kingman Academy takes on D-IV, Section III as the Lady Tigers try for their first winning season since they joined the Arizona Interscholastic Association in 2013.
Kingman and Lee Williams have to go through Buckeye, Estrella Foothills, Mohave, Surprise, Shadow Ridge and Youngker for the section title. Estrella reached the D-III round of 16 at state last year with a 23-6 record. Buckeye and Kingman squared off two seasons ago in the quarterfinals.
Kingman (18-9) has virtually everyone back from last year, including the state's leading scorer in senior Desirae Gonzalez. She averaged 29.7 points per game and has signed to play for the University of Nevada, Reno next year.
"We're looking pretty good," said KHS girls basketball coach Danny Gonzalez. "With the returners we have - we didn't really lose anybody - I'm excited about this year."
Desirae Gonzalez (5-10) carried a heavy load last year for the Lady Bulldogs and the others have gained enormous confidence to alleviate some of that pressure. Senior Kim Carroll (6-0) has improved her shooting, and newcomer Makenna Taylor (5-8), a senior transfer from Ohio, is expected to take some of the ball handling duties from Gonzalez. Sophomore Courtney Mossor has taken great strides since her freshman year.
Once the Lady Bulldogs recognize each other's attributes on the court, the sky may be the limit of what they can accomplish.
"We haven't played with each other as long as the other teams have," said Desirae Gonzalez. "We have to work on how each other plays. We have so much potential. State is our ultimate goal, and I think we can win it."
Kingman visits Kingman Academy to open the season at 7 p.m. Monday and then plays at Lee Williams at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
LWHS continues to improve
If using age to define the team, the Lady Vols (12-13) are young. But Lee Williams in its entirety has a season of varsity basketball under its belts, so it is experienced.
"Since we played at the varsity level last year, we know other teams now and need to transform that into our plays so we know what works and what doesn't," said sophomore point guard Madi Arave. "I didn't know the girls all that well last year, but now I'm comfortable with them and they're comfortable with me. As a team, that's going to help us a lot."
Lee Williams finished last season on the upswing and played sound defense. The Lady Vols want to continue that trend while putting an emphasis on scoring this year.
"I want us to take a bigger step offensively," said LWHS girls basketball coach Cain Atkinson.
The Lady Vols relied on Arave and sophomore guard/forward Sadie Snay. Atkinson understands those two will be in the spotlight again, but he wants them to have help.
"As a team, I need to count on everyone," the coach said. "They're sophomores now and have gotten a little bit older, so I need those two to be more of leaders."
The Kingman Academy Lady Tigers obviously want to improve on their 7-15 record from last year, but it isn't going to be easy. KAHS lost their two best guards, Laura Harris and Paige Mousley, to graduation and need those roles filled to be successful.
Reagan Haynes is the lone senior on the roster along with seven juniors.
Academy's section has only five teams and any improvement could have the Lady Tigers competing for a playoff berth. The Lady Tigers need to beat out Joy Christian, Parker, River Valley and Wickenburg.