High school basketball makes its return to Stephenville tonight as the Honeybees open their 2009-10 campaign by hosting Aledo at 7:30 p.m. in Gandy Gym.

The Bees, who went 19-13 overall and 5-9 in District 8-4A last season, return three starters and five lettermen in the second year of head coach Alan Thorpe’s second tenure with the school.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a group more excited about the start of a season,” Thorpe said. “Especially the seniors, they’re really chomping at the bit and expecting big things this year.”

Senior guard Brianna Bledsoe, who led the Honeybees in scoring in 2008-09, returns to the starting lineup alongside guards Kelsey Evans and Alex Huckabee. Guard Mara Christian is also back, and post Hillary Laursen returns after missing her junior campaign with a knee injury.

“The girls who are back have another year of experience, obviously, and everyone has had a full year in this system now,” Thorpe explained. “The girls have adapted well and I think we will be able to do more this year than we could last year.”

Thorpe is expecting big contributions from five additions to the varsity roster, including post players Becca Emmons and Gabby Lazarine and guards Kendra Schouten, Kensie Colegrove and Caitlin Wooley.

Stephenville had a busy off-season as players kept the rust off by gathering for summer tournaments. The Bees appeared to have made great strides since the end of last year’s UIL season when they won the PrimeTime Sports national basketball championship in July.

Aledo was 28-4 overall last year after being eliminated in an upset loss to Denton Ryan in the first round of the 4A playoffs. The Lady Cats lost McDonald’s All-American and TCU signee Hannah Christian and Lamar signee Taylor Hayes to graduation. They return first-team all-distrct guard Logan Mittie, the daughter of TCU women’s coach Jeff Mittie, and one other starter.

“They are coming off two really good seasons and will be a tough test for us,” Thorpe says of the Lady Cats. “We’re going to play tougher teams early in the year than we did last year. We have to do that to get ready for the district we’re in.”