High School: Flower Mound Marcus

Earlier this season in Round Rock, home of the state baseball tournament, Flower Mound Marcus pitcher Colin Poché displayed the superior ability that has made a believer of his coach.

The senior ace limited a historically strong Coppell to four hits in Marcus' 2-1 victory.

Those who weren't there to witness Poché's talent that day may also not be aware of his 0.00 ERA through 57 innings pitched.

“You’ll most likely see him pitching on TV one day,” Marcus coach Dustin Sykora.

Poché has collected six wins in his senior year and has seen opposing runners cross the plate during his time on the mound. However, all runs under his watch have been unearned.

Sykora said his pitching star has everything you can ask for in a left-handed pitcher, including a tall frame that he’s grown into during his time at Marcus.

Poché has committed to Arkansas, but Sykora believes he won't set foot on campus with major league aspirations looming in the pitcher's immediate future.

Crazy finish for District 10-4A

Always strong Highland Park began district play already on the ropes. The Scots picked up their four 10-4A losses quickly, sitting at 1-4 through the first five district games.

However, the Scots haven't lost since falling to McKinney North and even knocked off previously nationally ranked Rockwall-Heath twice.

Rockwall-Heath sits in control of the district at 10-3 but could lose its grip to either Highland Park or Rockwall if it loses its final game of the season against Wylie East.

Both Highland Park and Rockwall have one game remaining as well.

Arlington Martin remains only DFW Fab 50 team

Martin (24-2-1) gained ground in this week’s ESPNHS Fab 50 poll, moving into the No. 33 spot after a big district win over state-ranked Weatherford. Martin previously sat in the No. 46 spot a week prior.

Leading the Texas pack is Corpus Christi Calallen at No. 7, followed by Corpus Christi Carroll at No. 21 and Deer Park at No. 25.

Smart named ESPNHS first-team All-American

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
11:55
AM CT
Marcus Smart's basketball-playing days at Flower Mound Marcus are done, but he hasn't stopped earning honors.

The Oklahoma State-bound senior guard was selected to the ESPNHS All-American first team Wednesday.

Smart, who led the Marauders to a second consecutive Class 5A state championship, had previously been named the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and a McDonald's All-American.

Two area players from private school powers were named to the ESPNHS All-American second team: Plano Prestonwood Christian junior forward Julius Randle and Arlington Grace Prep senior center Isaiah Austin.

Randle helped Prestonwood win the TAPPS 5A state championship to cap a season during which the Lions won the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.

Austin, a Baylor recruit, led Grace Prep to its second straight TAPPS 4A title and joined Smart at the McDonald's All-American game.

Find more on the ESPNHS All-American team.
Not much was guaranteed to Dallas Jesuit head coach Charles DeLong before the 2012 season.

Two seasons removed from a 5A state title, he faced the dread of losing some of his players to Academy soccer and then, at times, had to put five sophomores on the field.

Looking back, it worked out pretty well for DeLong.

He tallied his 500th career win in district play, separating him as a Dallas coaching legend. Those five sophomores held their own, along with the majority of veteran players returning from last season, to put Jesuit back in the regional tournament this weekend.

Working on Jesuit’s side is decent continuity from the previous two years, but that doesn’t grant DeLong any more confidence in a return to the state tournament with the parity that exists now that Academy players no longer play.

“I’m not downplaying anybody, but I don’t think there is a super-powerhouse team,” DeLong said. “I think every team out there, on any given day, could beat each other.”

Jesuit is the lone area team playing in the 5A Region II tournament at Round Rock’s Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, paired against The Woodlands in Friday’s semifinal match. The winner of that game will play either Midland Lee or Austin Westlake in the region final.

Two teams represent the area in the Region I tournament -- Plano and Mansfield. Plano’s chance at a berth in the state tournament last season was crushed by Southlake Carroll, who would go on to claim the 5A title.

Mansfield was also knocked out by Carroll in the area round of the playoffs last season and has not advanced past the area round since 2007.

GIRLS

Plano West began its 2010-2011 campaign as the top team nationally out of the DFW area.

That momentum slowed through district play and came to a screeching halt when West saw its season end in bi-district to Coppell.

This year, West enters the regional tournament as one of the most battle-tested teams in the state, surviving playoff matches against nationally ranked Grapevine and Flower Mound.

West’s path to Georgetown in 2012 must go through El Paso Montwood in the regional semifinals. West would then face the winner of Arlington and Flower Mound Marcus.

Marcus is the highest nationally ranked team still alive in the playoffs, sitting at No. 3 in the Week 19 poll, but West isn’t too far behind at No. 6.

The only area team in the Region II tournament is Sachse, who has gradually improved its playoff run every season since 2008-2009 and would continue the trend with a regional semifinal win over Georgetown on Friday.

FM Marcus' Forte wins national 3-point contest

April, 2, 2012
4/02/12
12:43
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Flower Mound Marcus sharpshooter Phil Forte won the U.S. Marines Boys’ 3-Point Championship, a national contest held over the weekend in Chicago.

The contest won by Forte was part of the American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships, an event for high school seniors which will be broadcast at 3:30 p.m. CT Sunday on CBS.

Forte, an Oklahoma State recruit, was the MVP of the 2012 Class 5A state championship game last month, when Marcus beat Fort Bend Travis.

Marcus, by the way, finished at No. 5 in the final ESPNHS Powerade FAB 50 of the season.


Arlington Grace Prep star Isaiah Austin fell right into the rhythm of the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game with ease.

In what turned out to be a dunkfest from both squads, Austin flushed several put-back dunks as part of his 10 points and eight rebounds on the night, leading to a 106-102 victory for his West team.

The Baylor commit added two assists and one steal to his final line in 17 minutes of play and looked right at home in the Baylor-esque green and neon yellow West squad uniforms.

Austin came off the bench in the first wave of substitutions in the first half and began his scoring by gathering up a loose ball around the free throw line and hitting a fadeaway jumper.

On the other end of the spectrum was Flower Mound Marcus’ Marcus Smart, who didn’t hit a field goal on the night and finished with one point in 20 minutes.

However, he did have an impact in other areas, pulling down six rebounds and dishing out five assists, including one alley-oop lob to game MVP and No. 2 recruit Shabazz Muhammad out of Las Vegas.

Muhammad, who is still uncommitted, claimed the award with a 21-point, six-rebound performance.

The West squad jumped to a 21-point lead in the second half, but the East rallied to within four points. One last defensive stop, with both Austin and Smart on the bench, held off the East attack to secure the win.

Five area stars in tonight's McDonald's games

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
1:14
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Five area basketball players will be in the national spotlight tonight at the McDonald's All-American games in Chicago.

Flower Mound Marcus' Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Arlington Grace Prep's Isaiah Austin (Baylor) are on the West team of the boys game, which tips off at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN and ESPN3.com.

Three area players are in the West team of the girls game, which starts at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU and ESPN3.com: home-schooler Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut) of Glenn Heights, Irving MacArthur's Alexis Jones (Duke) and DeSoto's Jordan Jones (Texas A&M).

ESPN.com's recruiting and high school experts will be holding a live chat during the game.

Marcus Smart repeats as Texas Player of Year

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
7:01
AM CT
Marcus Smart, who led Flower Mound Marcus to its second consecutive Class 5A state championship, has been named the 2011-12 Gatorade Texas Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.

The award, issued in collaboration with ESPNHS, recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also academic achievement and exemplary character.

Smart, a senior, averaged 15.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while leading Marcus to a 39-2 record. The McDonald’s All-American Game selection has signed a letter of intent to play for Oklahoma State.

Smart is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award, which will be handed out later this month.

Marcus stands firm at No. 5 in ESPNHS FAB 50

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
4:02
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Texas' basketball season is over, but parts of the country are still playing and ESPNHS is still updating the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings.

The Flower Mound Marcus boys maintained their No. 5 position after winning their second consecutive state title. Only two teams ahead of Marcus, No. 2 Findlay Prep (Nev.) and No. 4 Chester (Pa.), haven't completed their seasons. Findlay Prep beat Marcus earlier in the year.

Prestonwood Christian remained at No. 12 and fellow TAPPS power Arlington Grace Prep moved up two spots to No. 22.

South Grand Prairie, which lost to Marcus in a regional final, bounced up three spots to No. 46.

In the girls FAB 50, Class 5A champion Duncanville moved up four spots to No. 7 two weeks after completing its season. Irving MacArthur held the No. 18 spot, Dallas Lincoln dropped two spots to No. 42 and Plano West slipped a spot to No. 44.

5A MVP Forte heads up all-state tourney team

March, 11, 2012
3/11/12
1:16
PM CT

Flower Mound Marcus guard Phil Forte, MVP of the Class 5A state championship game, was named to the UIL all-state tournament team.

Forte was joined on the 5A team by teammate Marcus Smart after the Marauders defended their state championship.

State champions Dallas Kimball and Argyle also each placed two players on the all-tournament teams.

Kimball's Torrey Henry and championship game MVP Shannon Lilly are on the 4A team. Argyle's Connor York and championship game MVP Clarke Overlander made the 3A team.

Here are the complete all-state tournament teams, as selected by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches:

AUSTIN, Texas -- Flower Mound Marcus guard Phil Forte left last season’s 5A state championship win with some unresolved business.

His 2010-11 season statistically finished well below par and was covered by the gigantic shadow of No. 12 recruit Marcus Smart.

[+] EnlargeFlower Mound Marcus celebrating
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comFlower Mound Marcus celebrates winning back-to-back 5A state championships.
That hunger of regret drove him to finish his senior season with a much better taste in his mouth.

Marcus’ senior big three -- Forte, Smart and Nick Banyard -- went out with a bang, taking the 5A state title for a second straight year in a 56-52 win over Fort Bend Travis on Saturday.

Forte leaves high school with no regrets, picking up the game’s MVP award with a game-high 24 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc. Forte shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range and 6-for-10 overall from the field.

“I wanted to get back and prove to everybody I’m a much better player than I showed last year,” Forte said.

“He did struggle last year,” Smart added, “and for him to come out and do what he did tonight, I’m just so happy for him.”

Almost as important as his long-distance performance, was his perfect, 8-for-8 shooting from the free throw line, including four at the end of the game.

“Our coaches and teammates have the most confidence in me,” Forte said. “I’ve just always loved shooting the pressure free throws. The coaches want to put the ball in my hands when there are pressure free throws on the line. My teammates did a great job of supporting, and I just stepped to the line and knocked them down.”

While Forte demonstrated his prowess on the offensive side of the court, the team showcased its traditionally strong defensive effort against Fort Bend Travis’ high-scoring twins, Andrew and Aaron Harrison.

Andrew Harrison was able to pick up 23 points on the night but was forced to earn the majority of them at the free throw line.

Marcus coach Danny Henderson said the game plan was simply to make it as hard as possible for them to score.

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“It was going to take a team defensive effort, which is what our defense is anyway,” Henderson said. “My goodness, those are the two best guards we’ve ever faced. They are incredible. They’re going to be NBA players. I don’t have any doubt.”

Smart and Banyard also closed the books on their high school careers with key efforts in the win. Smart’s stat line proved his balance as an all-around player -- 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Banyard put up a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. He also stole the show with an alley-oop in the third quarter that electrified the Marcus crowd.

That trio, along with senior A.J. Luckey, put up an astounding 115-6 record over the last three years, including three trips to the 5A championship game.

To those players, those three years meant more than just wins, losses and gold medals.

“This is an incredible team,” Smart said. “We’re more than just a group of guys who wear the same jerseys. We’re actually a family, a brotherhood. We definitely stick to being one team.”
AUSTIN, Texas -- Defensive-minded Flower Mound Marcus coach Danny Henderson’s top priority in Saturday’s 5A state final is slowing the offensive production of Fort Bend Travis’ Harrison twins.

Henderson wouldn’t reveal his thoughts on defending Aaron and Andrew Harrision, a pair of 6-foot-5 guards.

“We’ve been working all week on all three teams that are down here, but we’ll make some decisions [Friday night] on how to guard them,” Henderson said after Marcus’ semifinal win Friday.

However, one of Marcus’ top defenders, Nick Banyard, said he wants a shot at one of the twins, and he will mostly likely have his wish granted.

“I told coach after the game that I would be ready to guard one of them,” Banyard said. “It doesn’t matter to me -- I just want to guard one of them.”

Banyard, a New Mexico signee, said he has guarded both Harrison twins in various AAU games, which he believes gives him an edge by “kind of knowing all their moves”.

Banyard said his best defense will be to get under their skin and try to frustrate them out of good play.

“I know what gets in their head," Banyard said. "If you get in their, head they get real frustrated real easily. You’ll probably see me talking a lot.”

Both Banyard and Marcus Smart agreed that Henderson would most likely use Banyard and A.J. Luckey to guard against the twins, mixing Smart into the mix sporadically throughout the game.

“Eventually I’ll be matched up with them, but I don’t think at the beginning because we have two great defenders with A.J. Luckey and Nick Banyard," Smart said.

Banyard matched up against Garland Naaman Forest’s 6-foot-11 center Prince Ibeh in Marcus’ state semifinal, holding him to six points and seven rebounds.

The players should get what they want in defensive matchups Saturday, but Smart knows the game is really a matchup the entire state has yearned to witness.

“Everyone has wanted to see Flower Mound Marcus versus Travis." Smart said, "and they got it.”

State pressure gets to Garland Naaman Forest

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
12:13
AM CT
AUSTIN, Texas -- There was obvious disappointment in the faces of the members of the Garland Naaman Forest basketball team. Disappointment but also a sense of accomplishment.
What many will notice in Friday’s Class 5A state semifinal is the final score: Flower Mound Marcus 59, Naaman Forest 34. What those same people will forget are three specific points.

No. 1: Marcus is the defending 5A state champion for a reason.

No. 2: Marcus is the state’s top-ranked team for a reason.

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No. 3: This was Naaman Forest’s first time in a limelight this big. And if head coach Jeff Clarkson has his way, it won’t be his team’s last.

Naaman Forest simply ran into a determined Marcus team -- one that now is a state-tournament veteran, making its third consecutive trip. Even with stars Demarcus Holland and Texas-signee Prince Ibeh, the Rangers couldn’t find answers for Marcus, particularly McDonald’s All-American and Oklahoma State-bound Marcus Smart.

“It was tough. They played real well,” said Ibeh, who said he enjoyed playing at the Frank Erwin Center, his future college home court. “I just wish it would have gone differently. I think the stage of it all kind of brought us jitters.”

The anxiety definitely showed throughout the game. The Rangers only shot 25.5 percent for the night, making 13 of 51 attempts. Naaman Forest (29-8) also missed 8 of 12 free throws. Holland, Ibeh and Kent High -- Naaman Forest’s top three scorers -- combined for 18 points.

Marcus, on the other hand, made 47 percent (21 of 45) of its shots and all 13 of its free throw attempts. Smart finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and he made all eight of his free throws.

Clarkson said his team came out tentatively when it should have been more aggressive. Naaman Forest settled for long jumpers rather than attacking the basket. It didn’t keep Marcus out on the paint, as the Marauders scored more than half of their points (30) inside the burnt orange-colored rectangle.

Chalk it up to playing on the state’s biggest high school basketball platform, in front of 8,245 screaming fans -- many cheering for the Marauders. Also, chalk it up to Marcus’ bread-and-butter defense, which has helped it win 38 of 40 games this season.

“They did the things we knew they were going to do, and we knew they were coming, but they are all great players.” Clarkson said of Marcus. “Coach [Danny Henderson] does a great job in getting them the ball where they need it, and they made great shots.”

As Naaman Forest accepted its semifinalist medals, very few tears were shed. Partly because of the respect for Marcus being the better team Friday, and additionally because it was playing with house money. Few expected the Rangers to advance deep in Region II. Fewer expected them to beat DeSoto in the regional title game.

In making its first trip to state, Naaman Forest silenced a lot of critics and solidified its reputation as a team to watch. Next year should be interesting, as the Rangers return five players from a senior-laden roster.

“Obviously, our guys had a great year, and we wanted to perform better,” Clarkson said. “This senior group brought our program to a different level. They’re dedicated kids on and off the court, and they work hard on their game. They came together as a team this year, and that was really the difference.

“We’ve had some talent, but these guys grew up and gelled to have that success. Unfortunately, we had to play Marcus [Friday]. They brought their A game and took it to us.”

Damon Sayles covers Midlands recruiting for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at dsaylesespn@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSayles
AUSTIN, Texas -- To Flower Mound Marcus standout Marcus Smart, Friday’s 59-34 Class 5A state semifinal win over Metroplex neighbor Garland Naaman Forest was a statement.

Holding Naaman Forest (29-8) to just five points in the first quarter was just a small reminder to the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center.

[+] EnlargeAJ Luckey
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comFlower Mound Marcus will try to defend its state title against Fort Bend Travis on Saturday.
“There’s been a lot of trash talking going on that we heard from their crowd," Smart said. "They act like they deserve to be here and they were supposed to beat us. We have total respect for that team and that coaching staff, they have all the right to have their confidence, but they left out one part -- that we’re the defending state champions and not only that -- we’re the No. 1 defense in the state of Texas.”

Smart and his teammates backed that up, putting up 7-0 and 6-0 runs to start both quarters of the first half. Naaman Forest failed to move past the five-point mark until there were just two minutes left in the half. Naaman Forest finished the game shooting just 25.5 percent.

Marcus (38-2) limited Naaman Forest’s 6-foot-11 center Prince Ibeh to six points, seven rebounds and no blocks, thanks mostly to senior forward Nick Banyard’s defensive effort. Banyard said after the game he was glad he could contribute on the defensive side of the ball after a slow game on offense.

“I had to do something right on the court because offensively, I wasn’t very good,” Banyard said “I had to pick it up defensively.”

Banyard finished with six points and five rebounds, but made every point count on three huge dunks.

By the fourth quarter, the game was easily out of hand, allowing the Marauders to have a little fun before Saturday’s state final match. Smart fed Banyard on a couple of alley-oop dunks and then took a few of his own to the rack with authority.

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Banyard said the fun ending to the semifinal game will help him going into Saturday.

“Having fun is my No. 1 thing,” Banyard said. “At the beginning of the game when people are serious -- that’s really not me. I’m never the one that’s just locked in -- I’m always just trying to have a good time and get loose.”

Banyard and Marcus will need to be loose going into their state championship matchup against Fort Bend Travis and the Harrison twins at 8:30 p.m. Aaron Harrison put on a scoring clinic in Travis’ semifinal game against Northside Warren, picking up 30 points in the win.

Smart had all the confidence in the world after Friday night’s win, but even the No. 12 recruit in the nation will have a few butterflies before his bid for a second straight state title.

“Any kid that says they come out to a big game like this and says they’re not nervous is a liar,” Smart said. “You’ve got little pregame jitters but it’s just how you cope with it.”
So much can happen to a high school athlete in just a year’s time.

Flower Mound Marcus basketball standout Marcus Smart headed into the 2011 boys state tournament dealing with all of the attention being one of the nation's top recruits entailed.

He also had just received closure in an off-the-court investigation into the motives of his transfer to Marcus – which, of course, was ruled in his favor.

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Smart, with a hand from his teammates, overcame these distractions in Marcus’ 40-38 win over Garland Lakeview Centennial in the Class 5A championship game. He notched a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and was named the title game MVP.

Since then, Smart committed to Oklahoma State and earned a selection for the prestigious McDonald's All-America game. And now, Smart and the Marauders have the chance to repeat as state champions minus all the distractions on the periphery.

“He’s always been mature beyond his years,” Marcus coach Danny Henderson said. “He’s an even better player this year than last year because of his work ethic.”

Marcus returns four of its five starters from last year’s championship game, three of which signed D1 scholarships in the offseason. Forte will join Smart at Oklahoma State, while Nick Banyard will head to New Mexico.

However, there is a legitimate case in saying Marcus would not be back in Austin for the third straight year if it weren’t for Smart.

In this year's regional final against South Grand Prairie, Smart stepped up and blocked Jovan Austin’s bid for a 3-pointer as time expired to preserve Marcus' 39-38 win, punching the ticket to Austin.

“He loves to compete more than anyone I’ve ever known in my life,” Henderson said “He lives for this stuff.”

While Smart leads the charge on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, it’s evident by his actions on and off the court that he actually lives for his teammates – who make up quite a supporting cast.

Smart’s point guard and best friend Phil Forte actually leads the team scoring with almost 15 points a game and can be a sniper from 3-point range.

Banyard can spark the Marauders with a big 3 or by jamming down an alley-oop off a back-door cut and can create offense by being another big body in the post, gathering in rebounds.

Guard A.J. Luckey has flown under the radar, overshadowed by Marcus’ big three, but has taken games on his shoulders this season by driving to the lane and finishing acrobatic layups.

At this weekend's state tournament, the Marauders will have to deal with targets on their back and high expectations as the defending champions.

To counter this throughout the year, Henderson instilled a plan into his team that would make Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett proud – taking everything one day at a time.

“Because of those expectations, we took a minefield mentality,” Henderson said. “As you walk into a minefield, trying to get to the top of a hill, you don’t dare look up at the third and fourth step up in front of you. You just look at the next step and that’s all we focus on.”

The first obstacle in Marcus’ two-step to state comes Friday night against Garland Naaman Forest. The Rangers flew under the radar through the regular season but peaked when it counted in the playoffs, making them one of the hottest teams headed to Austin.

“They are similar to Connecticut in the way they rolled through the playoffs,” Henderson said, referring to last year's NCAA champion. “That’s what UConn did last year and that’s what these guys did and, quite frankly, that’s all that matters. Naaman Forest may be playing the best out of [all the 5A state tournament teams] right now.”

With this weekend’s trip to Austin being Marcus’ third in as many years, Henderson isn’t worried that his team will be caught up in the mystique of the event. But that doesn't make it any less special for the coach.

“There’s great coaches sitting in that audience that never get the opportunity to coach in Austin,” Henderson said. “It’s a humbling experience because I’ve been so fortunate and so blessed.”

N. Forest continues Garland ISD's state streak

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
7:05
PM CT
Garland ISD is getting used to good basketball. Naaman Forest's first trip to Austin follows two straight appearances at state from Lakeview Centennial. Naaman Forest head coach Jeff Clarkson said it's a good foundation for what is quickly becoming a powerhouse district.

"It gave us the vision of really having that goal, and knowing that [making the state tournament] is possible," Clarkson said. "The school district has given us the tools to be successful."

Clarkson said this is the first season he started with a real goal of winning the state tournament. Now that Naaman Forest is finally there, he is living the dream he has had for years.

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"You go down [to Austin] every year and you watch teams, and you just think about how you would love to be in that situation," Clarkson said.

His players can't be dreaming on Friday for the semifinal matchup. In their first state tournament game, they take on POWERADE FAB 50 No. 5 and defending state champion Flower Mound Marcus.

The Marauders are led by ESPNU 100 Marcus Smart, the No. 2 shooting guard recruit in the nation.

"Marcus Smart is about as physical a player as they come, so it's tough for any kid to match up with him physically," Clarkson said. "You can't get too caught up in [Smart] and what they have done in the past. You have to just win one game."

It won't just be about stopping Smart, either. Marcus proved it is one of the best defensive teams in the state by holding South Grand Prairie to just 38 points in the region final.

"They really try to limit inside the 3-point line," Clarkson said. "It's really important we get [6-foot-11 center Prince Ibeh] the ball and get some guys to make outside shots."

DeMarcus Holland and Kent High lead the Rangers in scoring with 11.5 points per game each.

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