IVANHOE — The influx of young talent at Sam Rayburn helped the Lady Rebels return to the playoffs and freshmen Natalie Nichols and Kari Hall were up to the challenge entering their first year of high school.


Nichols, a guard, and Hall, a forward, came up playing alongside each other and ready to make the leap right to the varsity.


Sam Rayburn finished the season 20-9 after a bi-district loss against region runner-up Era — the first playoff appearance for the program in three years.


The Lady Rebels won just a single district game a year ago before rising to fourth and challenging for third place.


“We were focusing on not backing down and playing the way we knew how to play,” Hall said.


Hall averaged 8.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a second-team all-district selection.


Nichols averaged 7.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and three assists as a first-team all-district pick in 12-2A.


“I always tried to be the energy source, the pulse as coach calls it,” Nichols said.


For their efforts, Hall and Nichols have been named the Herald Democrat All-Texomaland Girls Basketball Co-Newcomers of the Year for the 2016-17 season.