High School: Boys basketball notes

FM Marcus' defense paves way to Austin again

March, 5, 2012
Flower Mound Marcus is not one of those high school basketball powers that brags about the number of points it scores.

Marcus players would rather emphasize the few points they allow. Leave the triple digits for programs like Houston Yates.

On the road to its third straight state tournament, Marcus has allowed an average of 45 points a game in five playoff victories.

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In 12 playoff games over the last two seasons, only three Marcus opponents have reached the 50-point plateau. No playoff opponent has scored more than 56 in that span.

Great defense, Marcus coach Danny Henderson preaches, gives a team a chance to win even in a below-average shooting performance.

In Marcus’ 39-38 victory over South Grand Prairie in the Class 5A Region I title game Saturday, senior guard Phil Forte went 1-for-10 from the field and fellow starting guard A.J. Luckey was scoreless on three shots and two free throw attempts. But on the defensive end, Marcus’ sagging man-to-man defense made things very tough on South Grand Prairie.

The Marauders forced 15 turnovers and held South Grand Prairie to 14 field goals on 35 attempts.

“Defense is what we do every day. That’s why we’re No. 1 in the state in defense,’’ said 6-foot-5 post Jared Hamilton, who shared responsibility of holding South Grand Prairie big man Chris Washburn to 12 points.

Henderson deflects the credit for Marcus' defense to assistant coach Kenny Boren.

“Kenny was the reason we switched Marcus Smart to Jovan Austin coming out of that last timeout,’’ Henderson said. “He’d been looking at tape for South Grand Prairie for two months and he was sure Austin would take the last shot.’’

Smart blocked Austin’s attempt to seal the victory.

SGP's Bennett a 'rising star' in coaching ranks

March, 5, 2012
Brandon Bennett should be in the conversation, if not the frontrunner, for area boys basketball coach of the year.

In just his third year at South Grand Prairie, Bennett guided the Warriors to a 35-3 season and their first regional appearance since 1986.

Each season, the team has shown improvement: 15-14 in 2009-2010 to 23-9 and a playoff berth last year leading up to this year’s run.

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It shouldn’t hurt Bennett’s chances that by Flower Mound Marcus coach Danny Henderson called him a “rising star’’ following Marcus’ 39-38 victory over South Grand Prairie in the Class 5A Region I championship game.

“I was very worried about this game because of Brandon Bennett,’’ Henderson said afterward. “He can coach. A lot of people have the talent he has, but he gets the most out of his guys.’’

When informed of Henderson’s comments, Bennett was gracious in praising his players and assistant coaches.

“It’s a great compliment,‘’ Bennett said, “but it is a testament to how hard my staff has worked and these guys have played all year. They make me look good.''

When Bennett took over, he remembers home games played in front of mostly empty seats. For the regional final in Fort Worth, the Warriors brought a very large fan base.

“We’ve come a long way,’’ Bennett said. “And we’re not finished.’’

5A Region I area qualifiers spread scoring load

March, 1, 2012
Three Class 5A Region I boys basketball tournament area qualifiers share the offensive philosophy of spreading the scoring around.

Flower Mound Marcus, North Crowley and South Grand Prairie all lack a player averaging as much as 15 points per game, a departure from the days when successful teams depended on one standout player to carry the scoring load.

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North Crowley, making its fifth straight regional tournament appearance, is led in scoring by Braxton Reeves (10.8), followed by Calvin Ward (10.1) and Jalen McCloud (10.0). All three are guards.

“McCloud had a 32-point game and Ward has had several in the 20s, so we’re not necessarily balanced on any given night,’’ said North Crowley coach Tommy Brakel. “But over the course of almost 40 games, things even out.

“We have eight guys that can be our leading scorer,’’ Brakel added. “I’m having so much fun coaching them.’’

South Grand Prairie, making its first regional appearance in 26 years, is led in scoring by point guard Jovan Austin (12.1), followed by post Chris Washburn (11.5) and guard Jayrn Johnson (10.1).

Marcus, the defending state champion going for its third straight state Final Four appearance, is led by guards Phil Forte (14.9) and Marcus Smart (13.6) and forward Nick Banyard (9.8).

North Crowley meets Marcus in the regional semifinal opener, scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center. South Grand Prairie faces El Paso Hanks in the 8 p.m. nightcap.

Brakel said it was with great difficulty that he got away from a structured offense, with plays specifically designed to free up a certain player, for a more free-flowing motion-style trend the Panthers have used the last five seasons.

He said he was converted after hearing John Calipari, now the University of Kentucky basketball coach, speak at a clinic. Because Calipari, then at Memphis, became involved in the recruitment of North Crowley’s Willie Warren, Brakel was able to gain more insight into the motion offense.

“It was hard for me because it meant giving up some control of what is happening on the floor,’’ Brakel said. “But Memphis had a great season with the same stuff, we were running the same stuff and our kids realized that.’’

North Crowley used the motion offense when it won the Class 5A state title in 2008. Brakel said it is a reason the Panthers are balanced now.

“From a defensive point of view, I’m not sure I’d rather face a team that has one big scorer or balanced scoring,’’ Brakel said. “I know it is going to be a challenge against Marcus because they have three of the best players in the state. I’ve watched so much tape of them this week I feel like I could coach them myself.’’

UT's Barnes watches Frazier help Kimball win

February, 22, 2012
DALLAS -- Dallas Kimball guard Keith Frazier was under enough pressure Tuesday, playing in one of the toughest bi-district pairings against Dallas Hillcrest.

Piling on top of that basic pressure was the fact that University of Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes was sitting at the top of the bleachers scouting Frazier’s play.

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In the same way the No. 14 recruit for the class of 2013 nonchalantly handled that pressure in Kimball’s 82-70 bi-district win, he confirmed that Barnes was there to see him.

No big deal.

“I get used to it,” Frazier said. “I played on a big stage in the AAU so I’m used to coaches watching.”

As a junior, Frazier has yet to publicly name any schools on his radar, but he did show interest in Barnes’ program.

“I like UT a lot,” Frazier said. “I appreciate him for coming.”

Frazier transferred to Kimball this season from Irving and leads the Knights in scoring, averaging over 21 points per game.

Here is a breakdown of Frazier’s skill from ESPN Recruiting Nation Basketball:
At this stage Frazier is probably the No. 1 shooting guard in the country for his class. He has all the physical intangibles (length, bounce, and evolving skills) needed for the position and he is a prolific shooter out to 22 feet. With added strength and continued development in the areas of skill and savvy, he should be an elite recruit by the time he enters college.

Hebron boys shock 7-5A champ Keller Central

February, 22, 2012
Hebron's boys have a chance to advance past the area round for the first time as a 5A team with a win over Cedar Hill this weekend.

The Hawks (22-10) won't be favored, but they've already pulled one big upset in the playoffs.

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As the No. 4 seed out of District 8-5A, Hebron blasted 7-5A champion Keller Central 58-43 in bi-district play.

Central had been enjoying a dream season as the trio of Joel Bolomboy, Joel Engulu and Warren Sledge had the Chargers thinking of a potential playoff run.

Point guard Ridge Shipley (21 points) and forward Drew Nelson (13) paced Hebron against Central as they've done all season. Nelson leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game while Shipley averages 13 points and five assists.

Cedar Hill comes out of a brutal District 5-5A where it battled No. 2-ranked South Grand Prairie, traditional power Duncanville and a Mansfield Timberview team that pulled the biggest upset of the playoffs so far against Richland.

Hebron's upset highlighted a great Tuesday night for 8-5A, which went 3-1 against 7-5A. Flower Mound Marcus beat Justin Northwest and Plano West beat Keller.

District 7-5A's only win was Coppell's victory over Allen. The Cowboys needed overtime but eventually won, 43-41.
The competitive nature of the District 9-4A boys playoff race suggested the district would be competitive in the playoffs as well.

It hasn't panned out that way.

District 10-4A went 3-1 against 9-4A in the bi-district round, with 9-4A's one win being Frisco's 54-52 win over Rockwall.

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Even that game went down to the wire despite Frisco being the 9-4A champion and Rockwall being the fourth seed from 10-4A. Frisco won after RJ White connected on a putback at the buzzer.

District 10-4A's wins were convincing. McKinney North took a 68-58 win over Carrollton Creekview, which was enjoying a resurgent season that saw it push Frisco for the 9-4A crown.

McKinney held off a late rally to beat Frisco Centennial 53-51, and Highland Park topped Carrollton Newman Smith 46-34 despite not having its top scorer, David Allen.

Things get tougher for 10-4A as it moves on to face teams from Dallas ISD. Highland Park, which still won't have Allen (who is suspended for the week in compliance with the district's policy regarding arrests and participation in extracurricular activities), faces defending 4A champion Dallas Kimball, the No. 5 team in ESPN Dallas' final Class 4A area rankings.

McKinney North takes on No. 4 Dallas Woodrow Wilson and McKinney gets No. 2 South Oak Cliff. Frisco plays Dallas Lincoln.

AAC to host four boys playoff games Saturday

February, 22, 2012
American Airlines Center will host an all-day boys basketball playoff extravaganza Saturday, with four area-round games on the schedule.

Of the eight teams who will be in action, five were ranked in ESPN Dallas' final 4A and 5A area top 10s. Here are the matchups:
  • 1 p.m.: 4A No. 2 South Oak Cliff vs. McKinney
  • 3 p.m.: 5A No. 5 DeSoto vs. Rowlett
  • 5 p.m.: 4A No. 8 Arlington Seguin vs. Fort Worth Arlington Heights
  • 7 p.m.: 5A No. 2 South Grand Prairie vs. No. 8 Plano West

Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster for $25 courtside, $15 lower level and $10 upper level. Parking will be available in all American Airlines Center parking lots for $10.

Mans. Timberview boys surprise No. 3 Richland

February, 22, 2012
Mansfield Timberview provided the area's biggest opening-round surprise of the Class 5A boys basketball playoffs by stunning Richland, 60-44, Tuesday night at Arlington High.

Richland, the District 6-5A champion, entered the playoffs with a 28-3 record and a No. 3 ranking in ESPN Dallas Class 5A Top 10.

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“The key for us was our ability to handle Richland’s pressure,’’ Timberview coach Duane Gregory said Wednesday. “When we do three things, defend, block out and play at our tempo, we are a good basketball team.’’

Seasoned in a district that included South Grand Prairie, Duncanville and Cedar Hill, all bi-district winners Tuesday, Timberview (20-14) entered the playoff as the fourth-place seed from 5-5A.

The Wolves broke open a close game by outscoring Richland by 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Brandon Pye, a 6-footo-1 senior point guard averaging 16 points a game, riddled Richland by scoring 26.

“Brandon is our first four-year starter and when you consider what was on the line, that had to be one of his biggest games,’’ Gregory said.

Timberview, which has alternated between Class 4A and 5A since opening in 2004, is in the playoffs for the sixth time in its eight seasons. In 2009, Timberview reached the state tournament, falling victim to eventual Class 4A state champion Houston Yates in the semifinals.

The Wolves will meet Coppell (25-8) in an area-round playoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Grand Prairie High’s Amos Turner Gymnasium. Coppell got past Allen 43-41 in overtime in a bi-district game Tuesday night.
Rusty Segler had no intention of leaving A&M Consolidated.

He had achieved great success in his career, leading Liberty Hill to back-to-back state finals appearances in the late 1980s, and planned on retiring at Consolidated.

But a friend told him about an open position at Little Elm and the group of freshmen the team had.

"I looked into it," Segler said. "When I got to Liberty Hill we had a group of four or five strong sophomores and we built it and went on. I saw this [Little Elm] as the same type of thing. It's eerily similar."

Segler took the job before the 2010-11 season and couldn't be happier with the decision. In his second year at the school, Little Elm (26-6, 12-0 in District 4-4A) captured its first district title in school history and looks poised to win its first playoff game at the 4A level.

Little Elm opens the postseason with the winner of the 3-4A play-in game between Amarillo Palo Duro and Canyon.

"I had to talk my wife into it, but I said 'let's go try this and see what happens,'" Segler said. "This is been a pretty good little dream season so far. I hope it doesn't end."

There's no secret to Little Elm's success -- the class of 2013 that lured Segler to the Lobos has exceptional talent.

Guard/forward Biron Joseph (6-foot-5) leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 19 points and eight boards per game. Segler said Joseph is a complete player who excels on the perimeter but has the size and grit to play inside if needed.

"He's got all the tools -- all of them," Segler said of Joseph. "He can make a coach look pretty good."

Devante' Pullum gives the Lobos a pure point guard. Segler said Pullum knows what to do on the court before the head coach tells him, and Pullum is among the areas most productive passers, averaging six assists per game in addition to scoring 11 points per game.

Both figure to be Division I recruits, and coupled with experienced seniors Bryan Owen, Anthony Egwu and Lamont West, the Lobos have become one of the area's surprise success stories, winning a District 4-4A that's long been dominated by Denton Ryan and The Colony.

The regular season couldn't have gone more smoothly for Little Elm. Despite losing Pullum for most of nondistrict to a foot injury he suffered in football, the Lobos beat a number of solid 5A teams before sweeping their district.

Their most impressive games include wins over Rowlett (63-59), Lewisville (62-57) and Frisco Centennial (69-49).

But Little Elm earned its stripes in district play where it twice beat The Colony, a preseason favorite to make a run at a state title, including a 68-65 win at The Colony on Tuesday to wrap up the 4-4A crown.

The win was particularly sweet for Little Elm because of the sudden transfer of Damion McIntosh. Slated to be a part of Little Elm's historic season, McIntosh transferred to The Colony before the year began in a move that Segler called one of the biggest shocks he'd ever had in his life.

"It was pretty satisfying to beat them twice," Segler said.

Plano West, SGP facing difficult playoff paths

February, 16, 2012
Plano West has a state-ranked team with talent to rival any team in the area as it heads into the postseason.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, the bracket isn't doing them any favors.

Plano West (25-8) opens the playoffs against the winner of Friday's District 7-5A tiebreaker between Justin Northwest and Keller, but after that, the Wolves would face a state power in each round at the bottom of the Region I bracket.

A bi-district win would likely pit the Wolves against state-ranked South Grand Prairie, which obviously faces the same situation as the Wolves with a very difficult path.

In third round, Keller Central or Colleyville Heritage -- both strong contenders in the area -- could be Plano West's opponent. State-ranked San Angelo Central looms for West in the regional semis, and Flower Mound Marcus, North Crowley and Richland are favorites to make it to the region finals in the top half of Region I.

Plano West and South Grand Prairie's plight is attributable to a loaded Region I. Aside from the aforementioned teams, a number of strong area teams populate Region I and have the potential to upend a favorite, including Coppell, Duncanville and Mansfield Timberview.

Colleyville Heritage and Cedar Hill get rematch

February, 16, 2012
Cedar Hill and Colleyville Heritage met in a memorable third-round boys basketball playoff game a year ago.

They face off again, this time in the bi-district round, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Arlington Lamar.

Colleyville Heritage (24-7) is the No. 2 seed from District 6-5A. Cedar Hill (22-11) tied for second in 5-5A and had to settle for the No. 3 seed.

Cedar Hill needed two overtimes and a dramatic 3-pointer to edge Colleyville Heritage, 55-53, 12 months ago in Burleson.

Thomas Gipson, now a freshman at Kansas State, made two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining in the second overtime for the winning margin.

Heritage’s Tanner James very nearly supplied a final twist to the night’s storyline when his desperation 3-pointer for the win from beyond mid-court caught a lot of the basket before coming out.

A miraculous 3-point basket by Cedar Hill guard Brandon Harris denied the Panthers at the end of regulation.

Cedar Hill enters the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, with losses to South Grand Prairie and Duncanville. The Longhorns rely heavily on juniors with guards Jalen Jones and Charles Wesley and forward Dorian Waggoner.

Colleyville Heritage, which has lost only one of its last 15, is led by senior forward Thomas Brandsma and senior guards Nash Nelson and Alberto Ortiz.

Junior lineup has West Mesquite in playoffs

February, 16, 2012
The future looks bright for West Mesquite boys basketball.

The present isn’t too shabby, either.

All five starters, as well as the first player off the Wranglers’ bench, are juniors.

West Mesquite (25-7) faces District 16-4A runner-up Elgin (26-5) in a bi-district playoff 7 p.m. Tuesday at Waco High.

The Wranglers go into postseason as the No. 3 seed from District 15-4A after losing the regular season finale at Ennis to fall into a tie for second place with the Lions. West Mesquite lost the coin flip for seeding.

“Our kids kind of turned the corner last year,’’ said West Mesquite coach Todd Brewer. The Wranglers narrowly missed grabbing a playoff berth in 2011.

West Mesquite, like all 15-4A teams, had to deal with a marathon district season. The Wranglers’ league opener was way back on Dec. 6.

“That’s what you get in a nine-team district,’’ Brewer said. “We play a long district season and things got a little lax at the end. But our guys' IQs are pretty high and they are good at executing the little things.’’

Braylon Rayson, a 5-foot-10 guard, is the Wranglers’ leading scorer at 16.3 points per game. He’s been a starter since his freshman season.

“I’ve seen him grow up,’’ said Brewer.

Inside, West Mesquite can count on 6-foot-8 Anthony Walker, who averages 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds.

“He’s a jumper,’’ Brewer said of Walker, a two-year starter.

The Wranglers will run when given the opportunity, and they hang their hat on clinging man-to-man defense.

Brewer said early scouting reports of Elgin seem to indicate that the two teams are very similar.

Elgin, with a sub-.500 record, failed to make the playoffs last season.

Four teams scrap for final 6-5A playoff berths

February, 9, 2012
Four District 6-5A boys basketball teams are competing for the final two playoff berths with two dates remaining in the regular season.

Richland and Colleyville Heritage have wrapped up the top spots, leaving Irving Nimitz, Irving MacArthur, Euless Trinity and Grapevine to scrap for the final two postseason passes.

Here’s a look at the teams remaining in the race for the final two playoff spots:

*Nimitz (8-6 in 6-5A), the surprise team under first-year head coach Joel Donalson, is in third place with two games remaining, at first-place Richland on Friday and home to last-place Irving on Tuesday. One win assures Nimitz of third place. Should Nimitz finish in a tie in the standings with MacArthur or Trinity, Nimitz owns the tiebreaker advantage, having swept both in head-to-head play.

*Fourth-place MacArthur (7-7), finishes against the two teams immediately below in the standings, hosting sixth-place Grapevine on Friday and visiting fifth-place Trinity on Tuesday. MacArthur posted two-point wins over Grapevine and Trinity in the first round of district games. Two MacArthur wins assure the Cardinals a playoff berth. They can also wrap up a spot with a loss to Grapevine and a win over Trinity, providing Grapevine loses to Richland in the season finale.

*Trinity (7-8), currently in fifth place, is open on Friday and finishes with a home game against MacArthur on Tuesday, a game it must win to have a shot at going forward. Trinity remained in the playoff hunt with a 53-43 win over Grapevine on Tuesday.

*Grapevine (6-8), lodged in sixth, plays at MacArthur on Friday and finishes at home against first-place Richland. It will have to win both to have a crack at the playoffs because Nimitz already has eight wins and the Trinity-MacArthur winner is assured of eight wins, as well. Grapevine was swept in the season series with Trinity, split with Nimitz and lost the first encounter to MacArthur.

Ennis in 15-4A stretch drive hitting stride

February, 9, 2012
Ennis boys basketball coach Jerry Mason says Tuesday’s Senior Night home game against West Mesquite has the potential to be an emotional one.

This year’s senior class were freshmen when Mason took over the program four years ago. They have been instrumental changing the fortunes of Ennis basketball.

One of senior leaders of the Lions’ resurgence is the coach‘s son, Jordan Mason, a four-year starter who has signed a letter of intent with Colorado State.

With the 6-2 Mason averaging 19.4 points a game, Ennis (17-12, 11-3 in District 15-4A) is on track for its third consecutive playoff appearance. The Lions travel to Red Oak for a 7 p.m. game Friday before finishing the regular season against West Mesquite.

Mason’s scoring average is a couple of points below his career numbers due to more defensive attention he sees, according to his dad.

“I don’t blame ’em, I’d do the same thing if I were playing us,’’ Jerry Mason said. “But it has allowed him to learn how to develop in other areas. Jordan has progressed. He never played until he was in the seventh grade.’’

After living his early years with his mother, Jordan came to live with his father.

“His mom did a great job raising him, but her job made it hard when it came to things like getting him to basketball practice,’’ the coach said. “So he came to live with me.

“Jordan can play either the point or shooting guard. If he is left alone, he is a pretty consistent shooter. But he’s more fun to watch off the dribble.’’

Backcourt mate LaBradford Willis, a 6-1 guard who transferred from Lancaster, is Ennis’ second-leading scorer with a 13.3 average. Willis is starting to draw the attention of college recruiters, the coach said.

Coming off a 26-6 record last season that included a 15-4A title, Ennis began the 2011-2012 campaign as a ranked team. But after a challenging non-district schedule that included several Class 5A teams and a 2-2 start in district, Ennis slipped out of the polls.

“I think that took a little of the pressure away,’’ the coach said.

The Lions have since won 10 of 11, handing 15-4A leader Lancaster its only district defeat.

“I hope we’re peaking at the right time,’’ the coach said.

Wakeland, Newman Smith fight for playoff spot

February, 9, 2012
Frisco Wakeland had a banner season last year, winning its first playoff game at the Class 4A level.

But with a largely new roster this season, the Wolverines find themselves in a dog fight for the final playoff spot in District 9-4A.

Frisco, Frisco Centennial and Carrollton Creekview have jockeyed for the lead in 9-4A all season, but that trio has left little room for error for other schools in playoff contention, namely Wakeland and Carrollton Newman Smith.

Wakeland (14-14, 7-5) sits a game ahead of Newman Smith (14-14, 6-6) with two games remaining in the regular season. The Wolverines can clinch the final spot Friday with a win and a Newman Smith loss, but that will be a tall order.

Wakeland has to play at district-leading Frisco and dominating post RJ White while Newman Smith hosts a Frisco Liberty team that's won just two district games this year.

The most likely scenario -- the two teams settle things when they meet in a de facto playoff play-in game in the regular season finale at Wakeland.

In their first meeting this year, Wakeland held off a Newman Smith rally to escape with a 63-61 win, a victory that remains the difference between the two teams in the standings.