The Nocona Indians entered this season coming off back-to-back losing years, and without a winning district record since 2011. They parted ways last spring with former head coach J.D. Mayo, who announced his retirement but three months later took a new job in Joshua.
So the Indians came into this campaign with a new coach, and created a new attitude.
"Last season we had a slower offense," says senior point guard Jaxon Phipps. "This year, our coach came in and he emphasized pushing the ball, getting the ball up the floor. He wants us shooting the ball a lot this year. We're getting a lot more possessions in, and we're scoring a lot more points this year."
New head coach Tyson Mankin had a challenge: change the way Nocona played basketball.
The players put in extra work to make sure this season would be different than the last few.
"This group does a ton of extra stuff," Coach Mankin said this week. "Whether it's coming up for open gym, we do a shooting program two nights a week and we get very good attendance with that. We watch a ton of film after practice. These kids have just bought in to what we're selling, they do a lot of extra work. If you have a group of kids that do that, it helps you out tremendously. That makes your job easy."
"Every day we come in and he emphasizes that we have to get better everyday," Phipps said. "We go hard every day, and every day he wants us to improve on something."
The team's leading scorer this season is junior Kameron Hill. He says he can see the hard work starting to pay off.
"It feels pretty good. It feels like all our hard work been paying off, and it's really nice to look back at all the tough things we went through together as a team. And now that it's starting to pay off, all the work and hard dedication we put into the gym and all the hours that we do is starting to pay off and it feels really good."
In his first year, Coach Mankin has a possible district title run on his mind. The Indians (13-6, 7-1) lead District 9-3A with a big game coming up Friday at home against Holliday, who handed them their only district setback.
"I knew I was taking over a program that had been well coached by Coach Mayo," Mankin said. "I also knew that they had been a program that had been in the playoffs the last couple of years. But we were returning everyone so I figured we could take the next step in that progression of maybe competing for a district championship and winning a couple of playoff games."
Mankin says the biggest key to Nocona's success this year has been the freelance play of the team: "They were in a structured system for so long that I think some of the hidden skills that people didn't really know some of these players had, we're allowing to show some of that stuff off.
"We've got five guys on the court at all times during the game that can shoot the ball, handle the ball and pass the ball. That makes us tough to defend."
The Indians are ready to finish out the year strong and get the gold ball at the end of the season.