The end of one chapter gives way to the start of another, and such is the case as teams around the state begin preparations for the 2022-23 school year.
For many, that’ll mean making the move to a new district. Schools like Coppell, Plano ISD and Lewisville ISD, however, will share the same district for at least two more years.
The UIL's biennial realignment dealt those eight high schools an identical district make-up, again slotted into 6-6A for two more years of hyper-competitive play across all sports.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 6-6A’s eight schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2022-23.
1. Who is the preliminary favorite for 6-6A boys basketball?
Matt Welch: One of the 2021-22 season's most compelling stories was the resurgence of the Plano boys basketball team, which authored an undefeated regular season and won its first outright district championship in 16 years.
Graduation took a toll on the Wildcats' backcourt, particularly with the loss of 6-6A co-MVPs Makhi Dorsey and Xavier Williams, but Plano should be able to mount a credible defense of its district title with some talent returning down low.
Time will tell if that's enough to remain atop the 6-6A standings, and the Wildcats should have several viable contenders.
Keep an eye on Lewisville and Hebron — two teams that battled for the district's final playoff spot in a play-in game last season. The Farmers got the better of that exchange, but don't rule out a big upcoming year from Hebron. The Hawks could return their top five leading scorers from last season, including Star Local Media all-area pick Alex Cotton.
Lewisville should be strong as well, led by the veteran backcourt of Adrian Banks and Tre'lin Green, and the Farmers will have a full offseason under head coach Toby Martin as well.
Call it a toss-up between those three at the moment, with Coppell and Marcus not far off, with Hebron holding a slight edge thanks to its experience and Cotton's superlative talent.
2. Who is the preliminary favorite for 6-6A girls basketball?
David Wolman: With the field in 6-6A remaining the same for the next two school years after the UIL's bi-annual realignment meeting earlier this year, Coppell and Plano East should continue to see success on the hardwood. But based on losses to graduation and returning talent, the Cowgirls are my preliminary favorite to capture the district title.
As a refresher, Coppell and East earned a share of the district title last season. The Cowgirls won a single-season record 37 games and ended the Lady Panthers' 28-game conference winning streak with a 46-40 win on Feb. 7. East, meanwhile, still went on to earn at least a share of the 6-6A championship for the second straight year. The Lady Panthers are 27-1 in conference play since joining 6-6A in 2020.
Coppell will have to replace 14.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game from alum India Howard, but the Cowgirls are in pretty good shape virtually across the board.
Head coach Ryan Murphy, who is entering his fourth season at the helm, has five all-district honorees, among others, returning this season. Senior Jules LaMendola, an Indiana commit, is fresh off winning District 6-6A MVP. Also, Coppell will welcome senior point guard Macey Mercer, an LD Bell transfer who had to sit out all of last season after being ruled ineligible by the UIL.
3. Which players could factor into the MVP races in 6-6A boys and girls basketball?
Matt Welch: For a district that thrives on parity, there's no shortage of viable MVP honors on the 6-6A hardwood.
LaMendola is predictably the front-runner on the girls side, having already won the award last season and back to once again lead the Cowgirls. Coppell should be among the better teams in the area, returning all but one starter from last year's co-district championship group, and LaMendola's well-rounded skill set should ensure another monster year.
If Coppell slips up or another contender emerges, two names to watch are Plano's Salese Blow and East's Idara Udo. Blow is no stranger to 6-6A superlative honors, named offensive player of the year last season after averaging 21.9 points per game, and she'll be primed for another big year as a senior.
Ditto for Udo, who enters her fourth year on varsity entrenched as the top option down low for the Lady Panthers.
And if Flower Mound authors a bounce-back year after falling just short of a playoff spot in 2021, expect senior Maddie Cox to have her say. She nearly averaged a double-double as a junior at 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds, plus 4.2 assists, and should light it up once again for the Lady Jaguars.
The pool is just as deep on the boys side. Like Blow, Cotton came away with 6-6A offensive player of the year honors as a junior and remains one of the area's most lethal scorers. If Hebron contends for the district title, expect the MVP buzz to follow for Cotton.
Likewise, Lewisville's tried-and-true backcourt of Banks and Green could very well replicate the magic that Plano just enjoyed with co-MVPs Dorsey and Williams.
But if the Wildcats wind up going for a 6-6A repeat, forward Justin McBride should be a big reason why. McBride was a late addition to the Plano rotation last season but wound up quickly emerging as one of the team's best two-way players, and the arrow should only continue pointing up as McBride enters his senior season.
4. Who are a couple potential breakout candidates on the football field in 6-6A?
Matt Welch: It's never easy having to fill the shoes of a reigning district MVP, but Lewisville won't exactly be throwing running back Viron Ellison into the fire as he prepares to lead the Farmers' rushing attack.
Although Damien Martinez, headed for his freshman season at Minnesota, was a work-horse during his days with the Farmers, the 6-6A MVP battled injuries during his senior year. Ellison helped Lewisville's offense remain stout when called upon, rushing for 605 yards on 91 carries and six touchdowns.
Despite being a backup, Ellison still managed to receive an all-district second-team selection as a sophomore, and he's in line to take the reins of the Farmers' rushing attack this season.
Couple that with the team's inexperience at wide receiver, and there should be plenty of opportunities for Ellison to produce.
David Wolman: Coppell senior quarterback Jack Fishpaw showed as last season went along that he ready to assume the starting job.
The best example of Fishpaw's growth as a quarterback came during an Oct. 7 game against eventual 6-6A champion Marcus. Completing 67% of his passes, Fishpaw threw for 285 yards on 22-of-33 passing with four total touchdowns (three pass, one rush).
Although Coppell lost the ballgame, 39-37 in double overtime, Fishpaw showed that he had complete control of the Cowboys' offense. He developed great chemistry with now-senior wide receivers Carter Kincaid and Zack Darkoch, and junior Luca Grosoli.
For the season, Fishpaw threw for 2,026 yards with 15 passing touchdowns against six interceptions. He also demonstrated to scramble away from pressure, having rushed for 274 yards and five scores.