By T. Scott Boatright
The Choudrant High School Aggies have won at least an opening basketball playoff game the past three seasons.
Now the Aggies are ready to make a deeper foray into the Class B playoffs.
And because of their playoff experience, Choudrant coach Ryan Smith is counting on his trio of seniors.
“Our three seniors are big because they know what it takes to reach the playoffs. They’ve been doing it the last three years,” Smith said.
“Chris Williams typically leads us in scoring. Trey Harris and Jackson Case are my other seniors. Chris has been a starter since he was a freshman and Trey started some as a freshman. Jackson’s been starting since his sophomore year. So they have plenty of experience and have been in plenty of big games.”
Smith said Lachlan Thompson and Parker Batterton are two juniors who will also be key players for the Aggies this season.
Look for the Aggies to “go long” this season, especially after sinking 12 3-pointers in Thursday night’s season-opening 71-67 win over Saline at the Choudrant-hosted annual Chris Edmiston Memorial Tournament, which will be played through Saturday.
“We are built around shooting and being able to space the floor with our shooting,” Smith said. “We try to take what the defense gives us, and for the most part at our level defense can really help. We try to crowd the lane and pride ourselves on making the best decisions we can. ‘Catch and ready to shoot’ is who we are. We’re going to let it fly if it’s there. I like confident shooters.”
This season, Smith feels his team is “primed and ready” for a deeper playoff push.
“We want to get back to at least the quarterfinals,” Smith said. “That’s the goal.
“It’s all about teams finding out about how to win. Sometimes you have to go through the close losses and you have to go through the ‘downs’ for a year or two before you can hit that ‘up.’ We’re excited. We’re ready for an ‘up’ season for sure.”
The Choudrant girls basketball proved they were ‘primed and ready’ Thursday night, taking a 44-35 win over Saline in their season opener and the CHS-hosted Chris Edmiston Memorial Basketball Tournament.
“We’re ready to play. We’ve pushed on and beat each other up and played against each other enough so that we’re ready to take on somebody else,” said CHS girls coach Geoffrey Underwood on Wednesday. “We’re ready to see where we stand over the next few days.”
Senior Kylee Portilloz, a two-time all-district player who has already scored more than 1,000 points for the Lady Aggies, will be one of the team leaders heading into the season.
“She’s a good hand to have back and then Aly Thomas was second-team all-district last year and will be the other main scorer for us,” Underwood said.
Underwood has adjusted his team’s schemes over the years and said he’s doing so again this season following the departure of graduated standout Katie Wiley.
“We’re moving away from a dribble-drive style to more of a offensive set style I guess would be the easiest way to put it,” Underwood said. “I’m just trying to adapt things to what we do best. Katie handled the ball for us the past three years and was very good at taking it to the basket or dishing off.
“Now we do have some people who can dribble, but just not at Katie’s level. She was just somebody we could give the ball to and just get out of her way sometimes, and we just don’t have that anymore.”
Underwood said Thomas and Heather Murphey will share point guard duties for the Lady Aggies this season.
“I have two juniors coming back, Murphey, who will play at point along with Thomas, and Maddy Johnson, who was a starter last season as a sophomore and will play a big role for us,” he said.
Choudrant’s schedule includes tournaments at Class 1A and perennial powerhouse Ouachita Christian and at West Ouachita.
“I think we have a good balance this season between schools that will challenge us and schools we can be competitive with,” Underwood said. “I think it’s a good mix. You’ve got to prepare for the playoffs, and to do that you have to play teams that will challenge you.”
Portilloz led Choudrant in scoring with 16 points Thursday night in the win over Saline while Thomas added 11 and Johnson and Allysa Sanders chipped in with six each.
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