Brent Kell has thought about how his coaching career could conclude. So has his assistant, John Jordan, who is also retiring at the end of the season.

“Coach Jordan and I both visualized we could win a district championship,” Kell said. “We think about it and talked about it a lot.”

It’s more than just a dream. The Houston Lady Tigers are the favorites to send both their coaches into retirement as champions.

HHS is seeded first in the Class 3 District 10 tournament that begins Saturday at Mountain Grove High School. The Lady Tigers kick off the postseason with a 1 p.m. matchup against Mountain Grove.

Kell said this district tournament –– the 30th and last one of his career –– feels different.

“I’m probably even a little more hungry,” he said. “It would be nice to go out as district champions.”

Houston’s potential path to the title could be a familiar one. After the opening game against Mountain Grove –– a team the Lady Tigers thumped 54-14 –– is a likely matchup with Licking. Houston won both meetings of the season by 24 and 13 points. Awaiting in the finale could be a fourth matchup of the season with No. 2 Willow Springs. HHS won two of the previous three games with the Lady Bears.

“They seem to rise to the occasion when they play us,” Kell said. “We’ll be the hunted, but the district is there for the taking.”

Houston enters districts winners of nine of their last 11 games before Thursday’s regular-season finale at Liberty. The team’s last two victories were good ones –– 49-42 at Plato and 74-58 at Thayer –– on the road. That stretch also includes winning the Mansfield Tournament.

The Lady Tigers’ lone defeats during that span were to Salem and Hartville. Both are state-ranked.

“We’ve kind of gotten our identity back. We’re playing pretty well,” Kell said. “I felt like we were in a bit of a slump, but our losses were to two top-five, state-ranked teams.”

The Lady Tigers (17-6) just missed their preseason goal of winning the South Central Association. But advancing through districts would meet the two others: 20 victories and a district title.

Houston won its last and only district championship in 2004.

“We’ve talked to them since Day 1 that it’s tough to win a district championship,” Kell said. “It doesn’t happen often.”

But it could happen this year as the perfect conclusion to Kell’s career at his alma mater.

“This is something that this team can accomplish,” Kell said. “This is a good team.”

GIRLS’ BRACKET

Saturday, Feb. 20

(1) Houston vs. (8) Mountain Grove, 1 p.m.

(4) Licking vs. (5) Forsyth, 2:30 p.m.

(2) Willow Springs vs. (7) Hollister, 4 p.m.

(3) Liberty vs. (6) Ava, 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Semifinals, 6 and 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 27

Championship, 5 p.m

BOYS’ BRACKET

Monday, Feb. 22

(1) Mountain Grove vs. (8) Houston, 6 p.m.

(4) Forsyth vs. (5) Willow Springs, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 23

(2) Licking vs. (7) Hollister, 6 p.m.

(3) Liberty vs. (6) Ava, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 25

Semifinals, 6 and 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 27

Championship, 6:30 p.m.

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