The 2011-12 high school girls basketball season tips off today with two Nolan County teams set to face off against each other.
Class 3A Sweetwater will entertain Class 1A Highland at 6:30 p.m. at Mustang Gym, right after a JV contest between the two schools at 5 p.m.
Today’s game marks the debut of new Sweetwater girls coach Candice Wyatt, who was hired in May fol-lowing the resignation of ex-coach Jerry McSherry. Six players return from a team which finished just below .500 (16-17) overall but was only 1-7 in district.
Sweetwater is hoping that experience will help it contend for a playoff berth in a district that features a pair of preseason top-20 teams — No. 16 Brownwood and No. 1 Wylie, the defending Class 3A state champion.
Sweetwater’s 16 wins last year were the most since 2006 when it was 20-11. Sweetwater’s last playoff appearance was in 2005.
Highland lost 57-45 in its 2010 opener to Sweetwater, but the Lady Hornets would eventually advance to the Class 1A playoffs for the 10th straight year, getting to the regional semifinals under coach Ryan Dollar with wins over Robert Lee, Wink and Bronte before lo-sing to Newcastle. Several of those players return from a team that finished with a 22-12 overall record and was 10-2 in district play.
As a result, Highland en-ters 2011 with high expec-tations for another playoff run and this year’s team has earned a preseason No. 18 ranking, five spots above district rival Roby.