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The 54th Annual Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament was one for the books as within both the Boys’ and Girls’ divisions 4-peat championships were earned. Yes, that’s four championships in a row. The Kit Carson girls did it with a defeat over the athletic Holly group; and the Holly boys won their fourth HBT championship defeating Kit Carson for the second year in a row.

The Eads teams started the tournament slowly but finished strong with each winning the HBT Consolation Championship. The boys were pushed to the consolation side of the bracket when they lost to Wiley in the first round. However, they played two strong games and ignited some excitement by the end of the tournament that should carry over into the new year. The girls should have controlled McClave but lost in a close first-round contest and were forced to move to the consolation side of the bracket. They, too, finished strong and won the bracket easily during the next two days of work.
The pre-season was also interesting, at least when looking at the Kit Carson and Eads boys’ teams. Both teams lost most of their starters to graduation and they lost their head coaches to boot. This year is unique as the old guard left the gym and at the helm are four young men who were premier players in their own time at Kit Carson, Eads, and Walsh. The Dechant brothers, Damon and Jason, took over the Wildcats bringing good college playing experience into the role. Marcus Gilmore was a stand-out player in Eads in the early 2000’s and is now at the helm. He is aptly assisted by Weston Meardon, one of the Meardon twins, who were exceptional players from Walsh in the early 2010’s.
Damon Dechant, as the head coach of the Kit Carson boys, has done an outstanding job grooming his group of athletic but rookie players into a successful team. The Wildcat forte is defense and it has served them well thus far. As one of the smaller teams in the conference, the Cats will have to rely on their defense. They also have speed in sophomore Jayden McCombs-Farmer who is averaging 9.8 points per game. The big man for the Cats is William Hornung who has so far held down the middle pretty effectively. Hornung is averaging a near double-double with 9.0 points per game and 8.0 rebounds. The Cats will also have to use their strong outside shooting to open up the middle as they enter the main part of the season. David Arnold will take on that need as he’s averaging 7.2 points per game, including 12 three balls. The team is averaging 47.2 points and 30.2 rebounds. They are shooting at a 35% clip from the field and 57% from the free throw line. The Cats will travel to Bethune on Friday and then host Arickaree-Woodlin on Saturday, both non-conference matchups.
The Eads boys have some impressive stats offensively, but hopefully have been working on their defense as they lost the quarterfinal tournament game to Wiley because of their lack of defensive pressure. Offensively, the team is averaging 53.7 points per game and are rebounding very well at 37.8 boards per game. They’re shooting at a 35% field goal average and a decent 57% free throw average. The Eagles are going to be hard to defend against because on any given night they have five players who can score and cause problems for their opponent. They have four players with decent scoring numbers and two who are averaging double-doubles in points and rebounds. Freshman Brigden Parker, so far, is leading the Eagles with 17.3 points per game and 10.7 rebounds. He is also contributing 2.7 assists and 3.7 steals per game. Senior Zach Haase is scoring at an 11.0-point clip per game and pulling down 10.8 boards. Damian Hernandez is contributing 9.3 points per game. Perhaps the player who is key to the success of the Eads team is senior Trey McDowell who is just solid all-around with 8.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. Eads (3-3) will start out of the gate on Friday hosting a conference game with Cheraw who also has a 3-3 record. They then travel to Stratton-Liberty for a non-conference Saturday tipoff.
The Eads girls are sitting at a 4-2 record losing both games when their point guard, Miranda Mitchek, got into foul trouble and sat the bulk of the games on the bench. Eads is yet to figure out what they can do as they are very talented but unsure on what their individual roles are. This year their defense has picked up substantially and they will need to continue to improve it and their offensive game if they want to be in the hunt at the end. The team, as a whole, is averaging 47.5 points per game and pulling down 23 rebounds. They are shooting at an impressive 41% field goal average. However, they have been plagued at the free throw line shooting a dismal 39%, thus far. Eads is led by 6’0 senior Mariah Smith who is averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Two players, sophomore Morgyn Johnson and junior Kaylee Wilson, have been important pieces to the ever-evolving Lady Eagle puzzle. Johnson is averaging 8.7 points per game and pulling down 5.0 boards; while Wilson is scoring at a 7.5 clip and pulling down 3.0 boards per game. Both Wilson and Mitchek have thus far been the outside threats for Eads. The Lady Eagles (4-2) will host a tough conference game with Cheraw (4-2) on Friday. They then travel to take on a struggling Stratton-Liberty group on Saturday.
Then there is the number one team in the state and the defending 1A state champions ---- a team that has stayed perfect thus far in this season, to boot. The Kit Carson Lady Wildcats have so far shown that there’s no one around that can touch them as they have dominated every team who has walked onto the same floor. They take their superior height, with nearly every player pushing the 6’ ceiling, and a couple are even taller, and well-coach basketball saavy on the road to Bethune on Friday night. Arickaree-Woodlin will come to see if they can play with this top team on Saturday. Both teams are going to have to contend with players like senior Micayla Isenbart who is averaging 16.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game; Tess Hornung (13.0 points per game and 7.2 boards); and Reyna Isenbart (10.4 points per game and 5.6 boards).
The bulk of the preps basketball season is about to commence and we are sitting at ground zero surrounded by outstanding teams who may be taking a trip to the state tournament in March. Only time---and a whole lot of basketball--- will tell.

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