NORTH MESQUITE BOYS BASKETBALL CORDALE RUSSELL

Cordale Russell and North Mesquite picked up their first district win on Tuesday over Mesquite.

Last season featured a three-team battle for the 10-6A championship, with Tyler Legacy and Rockwall sharing the title, edging out Horn by one game.

That trio was joined in the playoffs by Rockwall-Heath, who held down the fourth spot.

According to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 10-6A preseason poll, the Yellowjackets are projected to claim the top spot, followed by the Jaguars, but they also predict a newcomer in the upper tier of the standings, picking North Mesquite to claim third place ahead of Rockwall-Heath.

The Jaguars are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, and captured a district championship two years ago.

Horn has posted a winning record against some tough non-district competition, laying the foundation for another playoff run, and they followed that up with a 59-41 victory over Mesquite in the 10-6A opener and moved to 2-0 with a 62-40 rout of Tyler Legacy on Tuesday.

In that opener, the Jaguars got off to a slow start, as the Skeeters opened the game on a 14-3 run and led 26-14 at the break.

The second half was a different story, as Horn came roaring back, using a 24-6 spurt in the third quarter to take the lead and then outscored Mesquite 21-9 to pull away in the fourth.

There are certainly plenty of reasons for optimism for the Jaguars.

Though they graduated defensive player of the year Tsepo Williams, Horn did return co-newcomer of the year senior Yai Koinyang, first-team seniors Sean Moning and Bryson Smith and second-team junior Jordan Williams.

Last season, Koinyang recorded 7.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game and he had a team-high 18 points in the district-opening win.

Moning led the team in scoring at 11.2 points per contest, while also averaging 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals, Smith , who tallied 14 points against the Skeeters, registered 9.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals and Williams had 6.0 points and 2.3 boards a game and scored a dozen in the opener.

That group has picked up where it left off, with younger player stepping up as well.

Sophomore Kris Williams had a 20-point game in the Curtis Culwell Invitational earlier this month, sophomores Ethan Williams and Spencer Mozee have been regular contributors and freshman Lamont Rogers has made an immediate impact.

The Stallions went 6-20 last season and won just one district game, but they have already shown why they should be considered contenders, posting a winning record through the first month. Despite a 59-51 loss to Rockwall-Heath in their 10-6A opener, they bounced back on Tuesday with a solid 47-37 win over crosstown rival Mesquite.

North Mesquite returned a second-team all-district honoree in junior Dalan Hicks, but the key to their early success is having different players rise to the occasion on different nights.

The Stallions, who are searching for their first playoff berth since 2018, have a nightmare match-up for most teams in 6-8 senior Tamorrian Grigsby, who had 33 points in a recent game against Denison and led the team with 14 in the district opener.

Seniors Korey Neal and Corey Love have added scoring punch, as have juniors T.J. Jones and Cordale Russell, who is coming off an all-district season on the gridiron and tallied 13 points against Rockwall-Heath.

Mesquite was a playoff fixture from 2003-2017, making 15 consecutive playoff appearances, including two trips to the regional final and another to the state tournament, but is looking to get back to that consistent level of success.

The Skeeters have relied on a committee approach thus far, with several different contributors, including seniors Jay White, Conye Harris, Kamran Howard, Gabe Shelton and Dus Soulemaine, juniors Sam Ford, John Tyler, Kovin Bruce and Josh Williams and sophomore Donovan Willis.

In the opener against Horn, Tyler scored 12 points, Bruce had eight and Howard chipped in with six.

Rockwall is another team that has tested itself against some tough competition and it got off to an ideal start to the 10-6A slate with victories over Tyler Legacy and Skyline.

This is not the same Yellowjacket team from a year ago after graduating four all-district performers, including co-newcomer of the year Barrett Riebock.

Rockwall did return second-team seniors Kaden Shelburne and Caden Marshall and they have helped carry the scoring load. The Yellowjackets also have an experienced group with seniors Caden Marshall, Brennan Ray, David Chang, Jace Eagler and T.J. Grix and junior Jace Stone.

In the district-opening win, they employed a balanced scoring effort that included 10 points from Grix, nine from Shelburne and eight from Chang.

Rockwall-Heath had to replace a big hole with the departure of 10-6A most valuable player Chandler Dickinson, who averaged 23.3 points and 8.0 rebounds last season.

Junior Kyler Courtney has emerged as the team’s leading scorer, with 10.4 points per game.

Junior Tylar Hankamer is averaging 6.9 points and a team-high 3.7 assists, junior Mekhi Johnson leads the team with 6.2 rebounds to go along with 5.5 points per game, sophomore Cooper Smith is tallying 6.2 points and 4.0 rebounds and freshman Deandre Thomas is made an early splash with 5.1 points and 4.1 boards per contest.

Skyline has a proud basketball history it would like to get back to after some tough recent times. The Raiders have leaned on seniors Darryl Richardson, Tre Jenkins and Danuel Scott, junior Jayden Copeland and sophomore Isaiah Gardner through the first month.

Tyler Legacy captured a share of the district championship a year ago, but is off to a 1-13 start to this campaign.

A dropoff was expected after graduating offensive player of the year Matt Wade and first-teamers Jaylon Spencer, Teon Erwin and Will Mitchell, but if the Raiders are hoping to be in contention going forward, they will need fresh faces to emerge.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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