Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
When the 25th annual Chicken Express All-Star Basketball Classic tips off on March 22, plenty of familiar faces will take the court in Mineral Wells High School Gym for teams representing the very best of high school basketball from Mineral Wells and the 14-county surrounding area.
Based on coaches' nominations, 26 girls and 24 boys were chosen from 60 different schools, each with honors ranging from all-district to all-tournament and all-state. A quick glance at the four rosters and multiple names will jump right out at any Palo Pinto County basketball fan.
Guard Courtney Peña will bring her defensive skills to the girls' West team as the sole representative for Mineral Wells High School in the entire classic. Peña earned First-Team All-District 6-3A honors after her senior season with the Lady Rams that ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Hirschi Lady Huskies.
After averaging 8.3 points per game, 3.6 steals, 4.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds this season, Peña will get to play on last game on her home court before graduation.
Also appearing on the West is Santo point guard Breeana Raffaele, who captained the Ladycats to their first appearance in the state tournament in 57 years. Averaging 8.9 points, 3.1 steals, 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, Raffaele was named Co-Most Valuable Player of District 11-1A-I along with teammate and All-State selection Payton Billue.
Raffaele was also named to the Class 1A-Division I All-State Tournament Team.
Facing off against Raffaele on the East team will be her former Ladycats teammate, Taylor Nemeth. A first-team all-district post, Nemeth averaged 10 points, 2.2 steals, 2 blocks, 1.8 assists and 9.1 rebounds in a memorable Regional Championship campaign.
Also on the East are Gordon's First-Team All-District 17-1A-II wing Tristan Johnson and District 11-1A-II's Offensive Player of the Year, point guard Sydney Wimberly of Graford.
Wimberly was a force for the Lady Rabbits in their district runner-up season, averaging 14.1 points, 6.1 steals, 0.8 blocks, 4.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds.
Johnson average 12.3 points, 4.8 steals, 2.2 assists and 7.7 rebounds in the 2013-14 season.
On the boys side, Santo is also well-represented with point guard Cooper Barling playing for the East and 6-foot-4 post Zarmorris Cannon suiting up for the West.
Barling posted an average of 11 points, three steals, 6.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds last season, while his teammate Cannon was dominant in the paint, averaging a whopping 21 points, 1.3 steals, two blocks, 2.2 assists and 12.05 rebounds per game.
Representing the regional finalist Graford Jackrabbits is forward Dylan Hart. Hart averaged 11 points, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.2 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game en route to a memorable 27-4 district championship season.
Hart and the Jackrabbits fell just short of a trip to state, losing to Water Valley in the Class 1A-Division II Regional Finals after a thrilling, double-overtime victory over Ira in the regional semis.
The girls' all-star game is set to begin at 2 p.m. with the boys' game to immediately follow. According to a press release, each player is guaranteed four minutes of playing time per half. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for students with children under school age receiving free admission.
As an added attraction, the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce and Chicken Express will have a three-point shooting contest during halftime of each game after which Chicken Express will award the winner of each a $1,000 scholarship.
In order to comply with the NCAA rules, the finances will be sent directly to the school of the winners’ choice to be used for their education only. Only those players who intend to go to college are eligible to participate.