McLennan Community College basketball begins men’s and women’s North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference play on Saturday against Ranger College at The Highlands. The women’s tipoff is at 2 p.m., with the men scheduled to follow at 4 p.m.

The Highlassies are coming out of non-conference play with a 7-7 record, having recently stopped a five-game skid. Coach Ricky Rhodes believes his team has worked out some kinks and expects to be competitive throughout conference play. They’re looking forward to the clean slate of conference play, but know they will face a good team in Ranger, which enters with a 12-4 record.

Under Rhodes, who began coaching at MCC in 1999, the Highlassies have won two titles and made 15 conference tournament runs.

The MCC men’s team is currently 17-1, with their only loss coming to New Mexico Junior College at the Hill Classic. The 14th-ranked Highlanders avenged that loss on Jan. 4, beating New Mexico, 89-64, in a game played at Dallas Baptist University. The record has been achieved with 10 freshmen players, four of whom are starters.

The Highlanders open conference play seeking their eighth conference title under coach Kevin Gill. Despite the team’s record and ranking, the men were predicted only to finish third in conference play. Saturday’s foe, Ranger, was picked to win the conference.

Gill expects the game to be hard-fought. He said that Ranger plays a man-to-man, full-court defense. He expects it to be a full 40 minutes of tough basketball.

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