Year 2 breakthrough: Lee's Mahaffey optimistic

Lee's Ciara Johnson, left, drives to the hoop against Lindale's Hannah Malone in a game last season. (Herb Nygren Jr. | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Robert E. Lee has a new girls basketball coach.

Not really, it just seems that way.

Lloyd Mahaffey begins his second year at the helm of the Lady Raiders and brings a more confident stride with him.

“I am not the same guy I was last year,” Mahaffey said. “I was trying to figure out the job last year and manage the kids, the program, offense and defense; I was kind of treading water.”

Mahaffey guided the Lady Raiders to a third-straight playoff appearance, but REL was dumped out in the bi-district round for a third time in a row to finish with 22-11 record.

Good, but not great and Mahaffey wants the latter.

He decided to change some things starting with his coaching staff. REL has three new assistant coaches with John Haft moving to Tyler after being the head boys coach at Carthage last year. He joins Lauren Smith, who was at Pine Tree, and newcomer Maggie Stephenson.

Along with the staff, Mahaffey said REL will have a change in its offensive philosophy.

Gone is the run-and-gun style which was concerned about getting shots up regardless of where they were on the court. Lee will look to run more offensive sets in it half court.

“We put a whole new offensive system in this year and the girls right now are struggling to put all of the concepts together and run it efficiently,” Mahaffey said. “But from what I have seen from the preseason ball games so far is they are playing really well as a team and trying to do the things we ask them to do.”

Of course, no matter what offense REL runs, the main goal will be the same — get the ball to Ciara Johnson.

The senior begins her fourth year as a starter after earning All-East Texas honors last season averaging 21 points and eight rebounds per game. She also finished with a team-high 35 steals.

“There is not much I can add about C.J. that hasn’t been said before,” Mahaffey continued. “She’s my go-to kid when we need to score and she has been for three years.

She’s come in with a different attitude this year and looking to be more of a team player rather than (try to take so much on herself). I am expecting good things from her.”

Moving into the point guard position is sophomore Tree Brooks replacing older sister Bre, who graduated and is now playing for Weatherford JC.

Brooks played shooting guard as a freshman and averaged seven points per game with 1.3 assists per game.

“She’s stepped in and is doing an outstanding job of running our offense,” Mahaffey said. “She shoots the ball well and has a high-running motor; she just goes and that fits into what we are trying to accomplish.”

Returning at post for Lee is junior Emem David, who was forced into the starting role last year because of a season-ending surgery to Stacey Malone (now at Kansas State). She averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a junior.

“She played all summer long and picked up a few new skills that (will benefit her this season),” Mahaffey said. “The younger girls are now turning to her for leadership.”

Rounding out what Mahaffey has penciled in as the starting lineup are returners Dajah Thompson (6-0, Jr., F/G) and Dominique Thomas (5-11, Jr., F/G). Sophomore Berjae Lewis will move from post to guard this year and Mahaffey expects all three to contribute.

The Lady Raiders open the season Nov. 6 at Palestine Westwood. Tip off is slated for 6 p.m.

“Our practices are different. I am trying to create a tough culture here and a legacy of basketball,” Mahaffey said. “We work every day to build intensity in our practices and take pride in our program. I just want to move forward.”

Robert E. Lee Lady Raiders

Head Coach: Lloyd Mahaffey

2011-12 record: 22-11 (5-5 in district)

Last Playoff appearance: 2012 (lost in bi-district to Killeen Harker Heights)

Returning starters: 4

Statistical leaders: F Ciara Johnson (21.0 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game, 6.5 steals per game); G Tree Brooks (7.0 points per game, 1.5 steals per game).

Starting 5: PG Tree Brooks (5-6, So.), G/F Ciara Johnson (5-11, Sr.), P Emem David (5-11, Jr.), G/F Dajah Thompson (6-0, Jr.), G/F Dominique Thomas (5-11, Jr.).

What’s New: John Haft joins the Lady Raiders as head assistant after being the head boys coach at Carthage last year. Lauren Smith was an assistant at Pine Tree. Said Mahaffey: “I’ve hired some incredible coaches with a lot of knowledge on my staff; I’ve been able to turn over a lot of things to Coach Haft where last year I had to do it all myself. Where I am weak, he’s strong.”

Offensive outlook: The Lady Raiders will look to get the ball inside and outside to top scorer Ciara Johnson, but instead of being an all-out fastbreak attack like last year, Mahaffey expects Lee to run more sets on offense to get Johnson in strong positions to score, but also getting REL’s other scoring options into open spaces. That said, with Brook’s quickness, Lee will also look to capitalize on opposing teams napping in transition.

Defensive outlook: Lee is going to pick up where it left off last year when the Lady Raiders held opponents to 43.6 points per game.

Team strengths: Johnson has averaged double figures since stepping on campus as a freshman and that should only get better for her senior year.

2012-13 Lady Raiders Schedule


Nov. 6at Palestine Westwood6 p.m.

Nov. 9Edgewood6:30 p.m.

Nov. 13Hallsville8 p.m.

Nov. 15-17Corsicana TournamentTBA

Nov. 19Winnsboro11:30 a.m.

Nov. 20John Tyler (at TJC)noon

Nov. 27at Lufkin5 p.m.

Nov. 30at Palestine8 p.m.

Dec. 4at Plano East6:30 p.m.

Dec. 6-8ET Shootout (Brownsboro ISD)TBA

Dec. 11at Rusk6:30 p.m.

Dec. 14*North Mesquite7 p.m.

Dec. 21*at Rockwall7 p.m.

Dec. 27-29UT Tyler TournamentTBA

Jan. 2*Mesquite3:30 p.m.

Jan. 5*at Longview3:30 p.m.

Jan. 8*Mesquite Horn7 p.m.

Jan. 11*at Rockwall-Heath7 p.m.

Jan 18*at North Mesquite7 p.m.

Jan. 22*Rockwall7 p.m.

Jan. 25*at Mesquite7 p.m.

Jan. 29*Longview7 p.m.

Feb. 1*at Mesquite Horn7 p.m.

Feb. 5*Rockwall-Heath7 p.m.

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