Hicks head coach Neil Standifer took over the job four years ago, and it was not an automatic, fairytale turnaround.

However, Standifer has his group set up for another playoff run, starting Friday night against Castor.

The Pirates (32-5) are the No. 3 seed in Class B and made it to the state semifinals last season, where they fell to eventual state champion Simsboro.

"We picked up where we left off last season," Standifer said. "We had a lot of guys returning, and the guys play really well together. We always talk about our balance in our scoring. We have multiple guys that can score 20 points any given night, so it's hard for teams to key in on one guy. It's fun to coach a team like that."

The gym at Hicks High School is plastered with banners and signs from previous state championship teams, but boys basketball is not prevalent on the walls yet.

"They've definitely seen winning at Hicks their whole lives, especially in baseball," Standifer said. "There has not been boys basketball team win state, but they know that there has been a couple of teams make state. When you see all the banners all around you growing up, you know you need to step up and try to do the same thing."

The Pirates feature a balanced scoring attack from a group of upperclassmen and can put a lineup on the court with multiple players over 6' foot tall.

Senior forward Mitchell Kinchen leads the Pirates with 19.8 points per game in district play, and fellow big man Trace Williams put up 11.2 points and 9.8 boards per game.

Zach Harper and Austin Merchant are do-it-all guard, while newcomer Trey Norris has provided a spark all season.

"(Norris) coming in has been huge," Standifer said. "I know the first ten games of the year, he might have averaged four or five points and was a role player. As of late, he averaged six rebounds a game and double figures. He's come around huge in the second half of the year, and I expect that to continue in the playoffs."

The Pirates went a perfect 10-0 in district play to pick up the title against a tough district that features No. 7 Pitkin, No. 19 Anacoco and No. 10 Hornbeck.

Hicks takes on No. 30 Castor at 6 p.m. Friday night at home, and although the Pirates are a heavy favorite, Standifer is not overlooking any team.

"We feel confident going in that we can play with anybody," he said. "At the same time, we know how tough some of these teams are, and we have to show up every night to play. We're not looking ahead to state or anything like that.

"We know (Castor) is going to be scrappy and play hard. They have quick guards that shoot the 3 really well. Even though their record might not be the best, they've played some good teams like Weston and Quitman in some close games."