Little Elm Softball

Little Elm softball’s Leah Salinas and the Lady Lobos were area-ranked when their season was cancelled.

With a move to the UIL’s largest classification on the horizon, Little Elm closed out its current run as a Class 5A athletics program with a pair of playoff appearances on the basketball court, with several other sports primed for success before being shut down in the spring.

Recent years highlighted the rise of the Lobos’ basketball program as a state title contender, an ascent that coincided with the emergence of RJ Hampton, who helped Little Elm match its deepest postseason run ever in 2018 with a regional quarterfinal appearance.

But following Hampton’s decision to continue his career overseas with the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League in Australia as a tune-up before entering this year’s NBA draft, plus the reassignment of longtime Lobos head coach Rusty Segler, Little Elm was starting anew in 2019-20.

Under new leadership in former South Garland head coach Dominique Parker and without a five-star phenom to lean upon, Little Elm nevertheless found a way into the postseason after catching fire over the back half of the district schedule. After winning just two of their first six 8-5A ballgames, the Lobos rattled off five consecutive victories, headlined by dramatic victories over Justin Northwest and The Colony, to wedge their way into a three-way tie for second place.

Just as Little Elm’s boys began a new era on a positive note, the same went for the Lady Lobos, who qualified for the postseason after a two-year hiatus. Behind the play of veteran Kennedi Harris and the rise of Amarachi Kimpson, who carved out an all-state season as a freshman, Little Elm’s girls went 7-5 in district play — highlighted by a 62-58 win over 8-5A co-champion and regional semifinalist Lake Dallas.

Little Elm’s success on the hardcourt followed up a pair of fifth-place finishes for the school’s football and volleyball teams. Despite a promising preseason for the Lady Lobos, who were at one point state-ranked in volleyball, the collective weight of 8-5A leveled Little Elm’s early momentum en route to a 3-9 finish.

On the football field, the Lobos put themselves in playoff contention with a 2-2 start to their conference schedule but succumbed to a three-game losing streak to close out the season. Included in that stretch were narrow losses to Frisco Independence (35-31) and Frisco Heritage (42-35).

The school rebounded in the winter and was poised for an even bigger spring. Little Elm’s boys and girls soccer teams had already clinched playoff spots in 8-5A before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the reminder of the season, and the Lady Lobos’ softball team, one season removed from a regional finals berth, compiled a seven-game winning streak early in its 2020 campaign. The school’s baseball program had aspirations of extending a four-year playoff streak put on hold as well.

By the time those respective teams return to action, another new era will be underway for Little Elm. The Lobos will make their 6A debut in 5-6A alongside Allen, Prosper, McKinney, McKinney Boyd, Denton Guyer and Denton Braswell in what figures to be one of the more competitive districts in the Metroplex. Where Little Elm fits in that equation remains to be seen. 

 

Five Athletes Who Helped Define Little Elm’s 2019-20 Athletics Year

Amarachi Kimpson, Girls Basketball

Only a freshman, Kimpson breathed new life into a Little Elm program that halted a two-year playoff drought in 2020. Kimpson had a big hand in that effort, averaging nearly 20 points per game on her way to 8-5A and Star Local Media all-area newcomer of the year honors.

Landri Townsend, Girls Soccer

Townsend piloted the Lady Lobos to a district title in 2019 and didn’t take her foot off the gas this past spring. She led Little Elm in both goals (17) and assists (15) to help key the team’s eventual second-place finish in 8-5A.

Lauren Lucas, Softball

Although Lucas’ senior campaign was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, she had the Lady Lobos in position for another big year after qualifying for the regional finals in 2019. Before the season was cancelled, Lucas was batting .569 from the plate with 21 extra-base hits, as well as 102 strikeouts and 2.72 ERA in the circle.

Ryan Watts, Football

A four-star prospect who stacks up among the most highly recruited student-athletes in Little Elm’s history, Watts chipped in on both sides of the field for the Lobos during his senior campaign. His unique size and length in the secondary made him one of the most sought-after cornerbacks in the state — a skill set he parlayed into a commitment to Ohio State. Watts added 10 touchdowns scored on offense in his final high school season.

Brian Hunter, Boys Basketball

Hunter was one of several Lobos who stepped up to help extend the program’s playoff streak to five consecutive seasons. Little Elm turned things around in the second half of district with a five-game winning streak during which Hunter averaged 14 points per game. He and Autavius Hobbs earned all-district second-team spots.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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