The Woodlands Christian Academy has had two trips to the state championship game in its last couple seasons and experienced joy in one and heartbreak in the other.
Last season, the Warriors were unable to defend their state title as they fell to Arlington Grace Prep 58-54 in overtime.
With three starters and five varsity players back, along with a couple transfers, TWCA hopes to climb to the top of Class 4A again in 2019-20.
“When you lose, you definitely have a little bit more fuel to come back and prove a point,” coach Tanner Field said in a recent phone interview. “Obviously, when you win you can develop a little bit of culture, a little bit of swagger. This probably was the best offseason we’ve ever had — hardest-working, no doubt. I think this senior class not only has a goal of wanting to put another banner in the gym, but they really wanted to establish culture and leave behind a legacy of culture.”
Bakari LaStrap, EJ Jones and Luke Mansfield lead a group of seniors that has seen the program rise during their time with the Warriors.
“We have a really strong senior class that’s been pretty collectively here since I started here,” Field said. “They’ve kind of always had this vision of being one of the best groups to come through this school and our school is a very a tradition-oriented basketball school.”
The Warriors won their first two games of the season over Fort Bend Christian and Frassati Catholic. Sophomore Austin Benigni was the scoring leader in the former while LaStrap led in the latter.
Along with Benigni, Chanse Perkins is another sophomore expected to contribute. Transfers Tucker Nooe and Evan Fershtman are also expected to play big roles. Football players Caedmon Parker and Ethan Hummel will contribute once the Warriors’ season on the gridiron wraps up.
“It’s the first time in a long time that we can really look at seven to eight guys and say these guys can come in right now and contribute at a high level,” Field said. “Then we can add a couple pieces when football is over that will make us that much stronger from an athletic standpoint.”
As is normally the case with basketball, players were all over the place with non-school teams over the summer. Field says once school was back in session, the team worked out five times a week and started putting time in ahead of the season.
“Once we got back on campus, we gelled really quick,” he said. “The expectation we set with the players was we wanted to build strength first. We have a great strength and conditioning program here on campus for all of our athletes. The expectation for our basketball athletes was they were going to get in additional workouts after school and they really all bought into that.”
The Warriors will once again compete in TAPPS District 7-4A, where they posted an 8-1 record against the other three teams. Field says TWCA has loaded up the non-district slate this season to not only prepare for the postseason, but also for the fact that his team will compete in Class 5A after this season. Some of that competition was experienced over the weekend in Wichita Falls at the Elite 14 Showcase.
“Our goal is not only to win a state championship, we want to be considered one of the best teams in the city of Houston, which is a lofty goal,” Field said. “We’re also pushing forward. Next year, we’re going to be a 5A TAPPS school, so early on we’re going to play most of our new district opponents for next year trying to set the bar a little bit higher.”
Strategy and talent will be part of the formula of success for the Warriors as they attempt to get to the state title game for a third-straight season. Keeping priorities in order will be another piece.
“I think it’s really just focusing on the little things and constantly adopting our philosophy of ‘always be third,’” Field said. “If we can put God first, our teammates second and sit in the backseat — the more we adopt that philosophy, the better we are.”
Head coach: Jeff Evans (second season)
Last year’s record: 20-10 (lost in regional round to Allen Academy)
Key graduations: Josh Martin (forward); Chandler Stevenson (forward)
Key returners: David Lewis (junior, guard); Wade Harper (junior, guard); Nathan Evans (sophomore, guard)
Key newcomers to varsity: Caleb Young (sophomore, guard)
Evans says: “Our theme for the year is believe.”
Head coach: Matthew Wilson (first season)
Last year’s record: 10-19
Key graduations: Kyle Wilson (guard); Omar Suki (forward)
Key returners: Antonio Evans (senior, guard); Jack Wilson (junior, guard); Michael Kubera (sophomore, forward)
Key newcomers to varsity: Michael Bannerman (junior, guard)
Wilson says: “I am extremely excited to kick off the season! Our staff and players are hungry. As usual, the SPC looks to be highly competitive and full of talent. Our guys are working hard and look forward to the challenge. We’re all in!”
Head coach: Mike Guisler (third season)
Last year’s record: 7-17
Key graduations: Jordan Lyons (forward); Jackson Turner (guard)
Key returners: Preston Heuermann (senior, guard/forward); Joseph Daigle (senior, forward/center); John Polkinghorn (junior, guard); Cameron Beckmeyer (sophomore, forward/center)
Key newcomers to varsity: Adam Daigle (freshman, guard); Will Stark (freshman, guard); Jason Victoria (freshman, guard)
Guisler says: “Looking forward to our team taking a big step forward this year. We have outstanding senior leadership and some great athletes in our freshman and sophomore classes that will help in getting our program moving in the right direction. Our theme for the year is “All for Him” focusing on living out Colossians 3:23 on and off the court.”