NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- Birdville guard Jalen Murphy had the hot hand for the Hawks on Tuesday night, helping his team extend its winning streak in District 5-4A with an 82-64 win over Aledo.
As is the sign of any player on a shooting streak, even the tough shots that came off Murphy’s hand managed to bounce around anything and everything to finish through the net.
“My follow-through kind of was off at the beginning, so I put my backspin on it and it went off the backboard and went in,” Murphy said. “All shooters look for that little hot spot they have on the court, and I found a few in the corners and on the wing.”
Murphy led his team in scoring with 22 points and was one of five Hawks to finish with double-digits in scoring.
The Hawks (17-7, 6-0) have spent this season implementing a new defense that came in handy against an Aledo (14-8, 3-3) squad that thrives on slashing to the basket.
The new strategy is simply a help-side man-to-man defense that is packed together in the lane to prevent teams from scoring high-percentage baskets off penetration.
It was obvious from the beginning of the game that the defense was going to be a problem for Aledo as Birdville held its opponents to just one point for the majority of the first quarter.
“Early in the game, we did a nice job of packing it in,” Birdville coach Jeff Fitch said. “We felt like to be successful against these guys, we had to stop their penetration because they’re good at that. Most of the game, we were pleased with our defense.”
Also aiding Birdville in the first half were the three quick fouls taken by Aledo scoring threat Matthew Bishop, who was also the school's quarterback. The fouls kept Bishop on and off the bench throughout the first half, which never allowed him to find his touch.
Coming out of the halftime break with a 37-22 lead, Birdville continued its onslaught in the third, scoring several breakaway layups off turnovers and steals. Six-foot guard Aaron Esslinger put away the flashiest of these open-court scores, getting way up to slam down two for the Hawks.
“That really got me pumped up,” Murphy said.
As time wound down in the third frame, Bishop and Aledo wasn’t quite ready to say die.
After a whistle for a foul, Bishop walked over to the Aledo coaches on the bench, shook his fingers and said, “I’m feeling it now,” with a smile. The offensive game plan shifted in Bishop’s direction and his words would be verified by his shot, hitting three 3s in the final minutes of the game.
Bishop would finish the night second on his team in scoring with 13 points.
“I didn’t play that good and didn’t play much in the first half,” Bishop said. “Our team played hard but we have to play a little better to compete with them.”
Aledo’s Taylor Johnson led his team in scoring with a 27-point performance, with Bishop right behind thanks to his second-half scoring burst.
As the hallway point in district looms just one game away, Birdville holds the edge in District 5-4A in the Hawks’ quest for the school’s first boys basketball district title.
Moving past Tuesday’s victory over Aldeo, Birdville will have two of the biggest tests remaining on its district schedule. First is a match with Keller Timber Creek, who sat third in the district race coming into Tuesday and is motivated to win by leadership from the school’s first-ever senior graduating class.
The following Tuesday, Birdville faces second-place Trophy Club Byron Nelson -- a team Birdville just beat in a four-overtime thriller in Birdville’s gym.
The road ahead of Birdville remains tough, but Fitch said if his team can string together wins like Tuesday night’s, they should remain in good shape.
“It’s a good district and very even district and we just hope the shots keep falling for us,” Fitch said.
Girls: Aledo 70, Birdville 61: Aledo’s girls squad (17-3, 8-0) put on a shooting clinic Tuesday, hitting 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Aledo guard Hannah Loftin led the instructional, tallying five of the 3-balls with three falling in the fourth quarter.
Aledo’s full-court, zone press gave Birdville (12-13, 3-5) fits throughout the game, forcing several turnovers that became points in the first half.
Loftin led her team in scoring with 19 points, followed by Alyssa Dry with 16. Dry hit four of the team’s 10 3-pointers.
“That’s one of the things we do. We’re a jump-shooting team and a 3-point shooting team. We try to shoot 25-30 3’s a game. Them playing the defense that they were allowed that to happen and one of our shooters [Loftin] got hot.”