The Marble Falls High School girls basketball team begins the 2023-24 season with a couple of certainties.
The Lady Mustangs will begin the season by welcoming San Antonio Davenport Friday, Nov. 3. The subvarsities play at 5 p.m. with the varsity to follow at 6:30 p.m.
First, the Lady Mustangs are the defending District 24-4A champions. And second, the team will be led by its only returning starter, senior center Lexie Edwards, and returning lettermen Kenadie Cotton, Bethany Fry and Kylie Roberts.
“It’s a very different year,” head coach John Berkman said, referencing the departure of multiple players to graduation.
Roberts returns to the team after spending the fall playing volleyball as a middle blocker. The basketball program had 19 players in grades 9-12, and Berkman was hoping for a few more with volleyball season ending Oct. 24.
It’s no secret the basketball team will lean heavily on its returning lettermen, particularly Edwards who just committed to play for Howard Payne University.
“She’s a senior who’s been on the varsity since she was a freshman,” Berkman said. “She’s a huge leader for us. She has the most experience in big games and how to handle them. She plays on a very high level.”
When Edwards unveiled her accuracy shooting jumpers from the free throw line as the high post, it opened up the long bombs for the guards. During the offseason, the senior committed herself to improving another part of her game.
“She’s improved her ball handling, and her passing has gotten better,” the coach said. “We’re going to depend on her a lot. She understands she is the centerpiece. She’s grown up and is the leader for us. We’re looking for her to have a great senior year and being a big piece of what we’re doing. We’re going to be a good team in part because of her.”
Roberts is an athlete with plenty of natural ability. She is able to move quickly on the court and plays defense that makes the opponent want to get a way from her. She also advanced to the Class 4A Region III track meet last year as a thrower and spent her spring on the softball diamond.
Though she was playing volleyball from August until last week, Berkman said he doesn’t believe there will be an adjustment for the junior. She has spent a little time with a basketball while also playing volleyball. She also has attended the basketball team’s breakfast club workouts. Getting in basketball shape — because of the pace of the sport — may take her a little time, but she’ll get there, Berkman said.
“That’s big for her,” he said of her doing basketball-related activities the last several weeks. “It hasn’t been a total dismissal of basketball. She’s an athlete who loves to compete. She is trying to win every single time. She works at trying to be better so she can win.”
Fry also has skills the Lady Mustangs will lean on.
“Bethany Fry has the ability to score at a high level,” Berkman said. “She’s great at grabbing offensive rebounds and getting putbacks or cutting to an open lane. We’re depending on her to do that again.”
Cotten is a guard who’ll be asked to play tough on the perimeter and to knock down open jumpers when she has the chance.
“Those are the things our guards did well,” the coach said. “When they were open, they made shots.”
As for the rest of the team, Berkman said it’s a work in progress. He knows it’s easier for teams to compete day in and day out when the season is going well. The question is can players commit to improving daily when adversity strikes?
“Even when you don’t feel good or the team takes a bad loss?” he said. “This year’s team has a lot of learning to do. Nobody else has been there. They’ll have to grow up really fast.”
Last season, the Lady Mustangs were the preseason favorites to win the district crown. This season the preseason pick may be Burnet because of who it returns – seniors MaeSyn Gay and Zaria Solis. Solis is the reigning district Most Valuable Player and Gay missed the majority of the district campaign last year because of a knee injury.
“Burnet is returning a lot of very talented players,” Berkman said. “MaeSyn doesn’t look like it’s affected her. They’ll be poised to make a good run.”
Lampasas’ new coach familiar is to Lady Mustangs basketball fans. Chris Jost was named the head coach in April. Jost took over the Marble Falls program almost 10 years ago. He spent the last two years at San Saba. In 2021-22, he guided the Lady Dillos to the Class 2A state tournament.
“Lampasas lost a lot, but their junior varsity was solid,” Berkman said.
He also believes Jarrell will be a contender because of head coach Marlena Brown though her daughter, Riley, graduated last year.
Lago Vista, which qualified for the Class 4A volleyball playoffs, will not have a basketball junior varsity. And its best returning player — Amelia Robinson — is now a Llano Lady Jacket. Still he believes the Lady Vikings will play well.
“They live in an area that has a lot of growth,” Berkman said. “You can’t overlook anybody or you’ll slip up.”
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