Among the constants in life are death, taxes and the Roland Rangers having a solid basketball team.

The third-ranked Rangers are off to an 8-0 start for the second straight year with a team that coach Ed Lewis says could be one of his best.

"I think its one of my better bunches," Lewis said. "The kids work real hard. So far we've been lucky."

The Rangers are one of a couple of defending champions who will be on hand for the 67th annual Northeastern A&M High School Basketball Tournament that runs Jan. 19-21 at four Miami venues.

Roland beat Tulsa Lincoln Christian 55-47 and won the bracket on points differential.

There were no champions determined last year since weather forced the postponement of the first day of competition.

The 2010 championship was the 12th NEO title for the Rangers, who are here for the 40th straight year.

"I played in the NEO tournament (while at Roland) and we've been going ever since," Lewis said. "It's been a good tournament for us. Miami treats us real well and NEO treats us extremely well. The kids enjoy it. We hope we can continue to keep coming to it because we get to see different people."

This year, Roland will be in the Boys' Gold bracket with Oklahoma 4A schools Miami and Tulsa McLain as well as 5A Grove, 3A toughie Tulsa Lincoln Christian, Class A Welch, Monett, Mo., and Southwest, Mo.

"We're playing real well right now," Lewis said. "Hopefully we can get it started again after this layoff."

They wrapped up the 2011 portion of the schedule with a 62-45 win against Keys (Park Hill) on Dec. 17.

Roland won the Hilldale Tournament with a 62-45 victory over the Hornets.

The Rangers shot 62 percent from the floor in the first half. They were up 35-19 at the half and ballooned the lead to 51-21 midway through the third quarter.

Ten different players scored for Roland, with 6-1 junior Corey Meadors scoring a game-high 14 points. Seth Youngblood and Kaleb Parham added 12 points each.

"We played really well that night," Lewis said. "They (the Hornets) shoot the ball real well. I had told the kids they had better be ready to play."

Hilldale had opened its season with a 50-48 loss to Miami - the Dogs' only victory thus far - then ran off four straight wins before falling to Roland.

Roland also own wins over Cedarville, Ark., arch-rival Muldrow, Shiloh Christian of Springdale, Ark., Morris, Stilwell and Spiro.

The Rangers' roster includes only three seniors, including Parman and 6-1 Christian Collins.

Youngblood, a 6-0 junior, and 6-1 junior Brooks Robertson have been among the Rangers' leaders thus far.

"(Youngblood) is shooting well from beyond the arc," Lewis said. "He's really improved on his driving game. He can really go into the basket strong and finish inside."

Youngblood won the Region 3 free throw shooting contest and will advance to state competition later this month, Lewis said.

Robertson is the Rangers' second-leading scorer.

"He's really a good floor general," Lewis said. "He tells everybody where to go and how to do it. He leads by example."

"We are pretty young," Lewis said.

The Rangers started 14-0 last season, finally losing to NOAA rival Stilwell 57-47. They finished 20-2, losing to Vinita 54-47 in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.

Sponsors of this year's tournament are Sodexo, the City of Miami, Stonehill Grill, Waylan's Ku-Ku, Welch State Bank, First National Bank, Security Bank & Trust, Arvest and Integris Baptist Regional Health Center.