Special Photo/Scott Lashley Alexander junior center Brady Spence is averaging 9.5 points and is leading the team with an 8.9 rebounding average.

If this is suppose to be a rebuilding season, somebody forgot to tell the Alexander basketball team.

The Cougars, with no returning starters, are in the thick of the Region 5-AAAAAA regular-season title hunt.

While Alexander coach Jason Slate is pleased with his team’s effort, he is also looking for some improvements before next month’s region tournament.

“We are playing hard but we are a couple points from being 0-3 in our last three region games,” Slate said. “We have gotten some balance, and we are fortunate to come out on top. I still know we can make a lot more improvements.”

Going into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. region contest at Mays, the Cougars are 9-6 overall and 7-2 in the region. They are on a four game winning streak but more importantly, the Cougars have won three region games over ranked opponents.

On Tuesday, the team defeated top-ranked and defending state-champion Langston Hughes, 70-66, in overtime. Prior to that, the Cougars knocked off Douglas County, 80-78, in overtime.

“The most important thing is that the effort has been there,” Slate said. “Our execution has not been as good. We are attempting to share the ball. The downside is that as of Jan. 11, we are still talking about Day One stuff.”

Alexander started the season with no returning starters and very little experience. However, the team has positioned itself for a top spot in the region standings.

If the Cougars win tonight at Mays, and Langston Hughes loses against Tri-Cities, Alexander would be tied for first. An Alexander win and a Langston Hughes win puts the Cougars in sole possession of second place.

“This is a big game because it is Mays and it is our next game,” Slate said. “As far as anything else, we have talked about it. We have a hard time as it is just concentrating on what’s at hand.”

Through 15 games, senior guard Chris Lunsford is leading the team with a 12.5 points per game average. Junior center Brady Spence is averaging 9.5 points and 8.9 rebounds to lead the team.

The team’s current win streak has boosted their overall confidence.

“As a team, we feel we can compete with anybody,” Lunsford said. “We just want to keep building on the winning and our confidence.”

Following tonight’s contest, the schedule seems favorable to the Cougars with Tri-Cities (Jan. 26) being on the only team in the top four in the region.

New Manchester (Jan. 16 and Jan. 27) and Northgate (Jan. 19) are winless in the region. The Cougars play South Paulding, a team it defeated earlier in the season, on Jan. 23.

“The key for us is to step up and accept the challenge,” Lunsford said. “I think everybody knows that we have some talent.”

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