The Westbury Christian girls basketball team failed in its quest to capture an unprecedented fifth straight TAPPS state hoops title, falling to rival Fort Bend Christian in the regional finals.
Westbury Christian head coach Josh Bailey believes it will make the Wildcats that much hungrier this season.
"We really wanted a five-peat," Bailey said. "But we'll try to bounce back and get our fifth in six years."
Westbury Christian has the personnel to make a run at another TAPPS Class 4A state crown, even with only a handful of letter-winners back from last year's 22-17 squad.
The Wildcats began the week at 4-3 after winning two of three games at home at the Sharpstown Rotary Tournament. Westbury Christian rolled past CHSA 87-29 and Westbury 60-11 before falling to reigning Southwest Preparatory Conference champion Kinkaid 51-41.
"We're a young team, but we have plenty of talent," Bailey said.
"We probably have four Division I (college) prospects."
Senior Guard Hannah Cambel
The top returnee is senior Hannah Cambel, a 5-foot-5 shooting guard. Cambel averaged 9.7 points per game for the Wildcats a year ago.
"Hannah played on state championship teams her freshman and sophomore years. I know she wants to finish her career on top," Bailey said. "Hannah was a 38 percent 3-point shooter last season. She can really light it up."
Bailey also praised Cambel's leadership style.
"Hannah made academic all-state last year," Bailey said. "She's an inspiration to her teammates, both on the court and in the classroom."
Four starters are new to Westbury Christian. Marissa Banfield, a 5-5 freshman, is the point guard. Transfers include 5-8 junior guard Marie Bailey (Lutheran South), 5-7 junior guard Sarah Williams (Cy Falls) and 6-0 sophomore post Tyra Cormier (Mayde Creek).
Freshman Guard Marissa Banfield
Junior Guard Sarah Williams
Bailey and Williams have been a excellent additions to backcourt. Williams was the Wildcats' lone all-tournament selection at the recent University of St. Thomas' St. Thomas Classic.
Junior Guard Marie Bailey
"I thought Marie was the second-best guard in the district behind Carly last year," Bailey said. "Sarah is pretty athletic. She can pass the ball and has a nice mid-range jumper."
Sophomore Post Tyra Cormier
On a team that relies heavily on guard play, Cormier is the missing piece.
"Tyra is the big inside presence," Bailey said. "Tyra is one of the few kids we have who likes to play with her back to the basket. She will help us in the paint with her scoring and rebounding."
Other guards in the rotation are 5-4 senior Victoria Silvas and 5-3 junior Ruby Ramirez.
"Victoria is another 3-point threat and is capable of starting," Bailey said. "Ruby is our fourth guard and can run the 1 and 2 for us."
The Wildcats don't have a particularly deep bench, but they feature several reserves who can provide a boost, most notably 5-5 senior Leslie Nava and 5-4 senior Jill Isagan at guard and 5-10 junior forward Taylor Courtney.
Two rookies - 5-10 sophomores Clara Akwarandu and Natalie Hamilton - could garner significant minutes at forward.
"We've been fairly balanced so far," Bailey said. "If you look at our box scores, Tyra will give us 14 points and nine rebounds most nights. The rest of them are anywhere between seven and 14 points. That will get the job done for us."
Bailey expects Westbury Christian to be tested early and often as the players get more comfortable with each other. The Wildcats will compete at the Aldine ISD Tournament on Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 21-23.
Yet, Bailey is confident that Westbury Christian will be fully prepared for TAPPS District 4-4A play and another state title run.
"After all the success we've had, last season was disappointing, but it gave us a lot of motivation," Bailey said. "We know we are capable of a lot more."
Westbury Christian's girls have been one of the top private school girls basketball programs in Texas. The Wildcats won four straight TAPPS state titles from 2009-12 before falling in the regional finals last season. With a talented roster, head coach Josh Bailey predicts the Wildcats will be back in contention. See more @ HoustonChronicle