By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – Believe it or not, district play in boys’ basketball has already tipped off for some of the area schools. A few are set to begin after the start of 2017, but regardless, the games played in the next month and a half will be key for those teams hoping to make a run towards the Alamo City and a chance to hoist the 2016-2017 UIL State Championship trophy.

At the 4A level, the Palestine Wildcats are in District 18-4A along with Athens, Fairfield, Madisonville and Mexia. Even with four teams going to the playoffs, the Wildcats may have to fight their way into the postseason. Palestine currently has a record of 7-6. The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches picked the Wildcats to finish fourth in their District 18-4A which would leave the Fairfield eagles, currently sitting at 11-4 and ranked at #23 as the odd man out.

The Wildcats open district play on the road against the Athens Hornets on Jan. 13. They follow that up with a home game against the Mexia Black Cats on Jan. 17.

District play has already started at the Class 3A level for those teams in the immediate area. In District 18-3A, The Westwood Panthers are 1-0 in conference play after their 61-45 win over the Buffalo Bison on Dec. 20. The Panthers next district game is scheduled for Jan. 3 at home against the Malakoff Tigers.

The Frankston Indians are having a rough start to the 2016-2017 basketball season. The Indians are currently 1-11 on the season and begin district play on Jan. 3 against the Teague Lions in Frankston.

The Elkhart Elks are 0-1 in district after a 92-44 loss to Teague on Dec. 20. The Elks have a record of 6-7 but have flashed some potential early on in the season.  The Elks will take part in the Buffalo Tournament before resuming play against the Bison in Elkhart on Jan. 3.

Both Westwood and Frankston are participating in the Houston County Holiday Tournament which began on Dec. 28.

In District 21-3A, the Crockett Bulldogs are 0-1 in district play after they opened with a 70-55 loss to New Waverly on Dec. 20. The Dawgs have a record of 7-7 so far and are gearing up to host the Houston County Holiday Tournament. Crockett opens the tournament with a game against Fairfield on Dec. 28. The Dawgs return to district play on Jan. 3 as they host the Trinity Tigers.

The Cayuga Wildcats are 0-1 in District 19-2A after they were defeated by the Kerens Bobcats on Dec. 20 by a final of 73-54. The Wildcats play against the Troy Trojans on Dec. 28 and 29 before they resume district play on Jan. 3 against the Cross Roads Wildcats.

District play is still a week or two week away for Houston County 2A teams as Grapeland, Latexo and Lovelady tip off the district season after the New Year. The Lovelady Lions will travel to Grapeland on Jan 13 for a game with the #7 ranked Sandies, who have a record of 14-1. Grapeland will co-host the Houston County Holiday Tournament beginning on Dec. 28 with a game against the Trinity Tigers.

The Latexo Tigers are currently 7-11 on the season but the Tigers have shown the ability to put up points in a hurry in their pre-district games. The Tigers are off until Dec. 30 when they travel to Kennard for a game. Latexo opens district play on Jan. 13 as hey host Dallardsville Big Sandy.

Lovelady is having a rough start to the season and is looking to string together a couple of big wins to get on track as they head into district competition. The Lions are playing in the Buffalo Tournament which starts on Dec. 28. They open district play on Jan. 6 with a home game against the Groveton Indians.

The Neches Tigers opened the season 11-0 before they lost a heartbreaker to the Westwood Panthers earlier this month. Neches opens up district competition on Jan. 13 against new Summerfield.

In District 27-1A, the Slocum Mustangs are currently ranked at #10 and have a 10-5 record. The Mustangs will participate in the Glenn Rose Tournament beginning on Dec. 29 before they return home to open district play on Jan. 10 against the Oakwood Panthers.

Also at the 1A level, the Kennard Tigers are 1-0 in District 28-1A after they defeated Groveton Centerville on Dec. 16. The Tigers return to district action on Dec. 30 with a home game against Latexo and then resume district play on Jan. 3 with a road game against the Martinsville Pirates.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.