High School: 2/10/12 boys basketball notes

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.

Long bench leads to big victories for Allen

February, 9, 2012
Allen doesn't have the high-end talent that Flower Mound Marcus has or the rich tradition of Plano West.

What the Eagles do have is a big group of solid players who play team basketball.

On any given night, Allen (18-13, 7-5 in District 8-5A) can have as many as 11 players enter the game. While that doesn't allow for eye-popping individual stats, it does lead to wins.

"We have six posts that we don't hesitate putting in at any time," Allen head coach Steve Specht said. "We're two deep at guard at least. We rotate those guys in. I think that's helped build our depth."

Allen has 13 players who have played in at least 16 games this year, but only one -- Jacob Rothbauer -- averages double digits in scoring (13 points per game).

The Eagles share the ball as well as anyone, always looking to make the extra pass to get the easier shot. One stat Specht pays close attention to is assists. If it gets more assists than its opponent, Allen usually wins.

Having such a long bench also allows Specht to tailor his lineup to specific opponents, providing the best possible matchups against teams that may have more talent but not as much versatility.

"We look at your team and realize sometimes that they're playing with seven or eight and we go in there with 11," Specht said. "We have 13 guys in uniform. All those guys have the ability to contribute. It goes back to practice. We give everybody equal opportunity to get better and prove themselves."

Allen's formula for success has the team sitting in third place in District 8-5A, two games ahead of fifth-place Lewisville with two games remaining in the season.

While they haven't officially clinched a playoff spot, the Eagles will with a win over Plano on Friday or Lewisville on Tuesday or a Lewisville loss. The schedule favors Allen as Lewisville plays second-place Plano West on Friday.

Should the Eagles get in, it would be the second playoff berth in three years for a school more known for football than basketball.

"We don't want to just get in," Specht said. "We want to make some noise this time around."