HALTOM CITY -- The Whataburger Tournament is more than an adequate tool for coaches to survey their teams' readiness when exhaustive district campaigns begin in earnest after the first of the year.
January and February will be particularly hot for the boys of District 3-5A and District 7-5A.
"I'd rather be in the Big 12," said Duncanville coach Danny Henderson of a District 7-5A that includes the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the state, DeSoto and South Grand Prairie, and Nos. 4 and 5, Mansfield Timberview and Duncanville.
The road to fifth place at the Whataburger on Saturday at Thomas Coliseum gave Duncanville and North Crowley, a member of District 3-5A, a primer on life after the holidays.
North Crowley defeated Duncanville 55-52 in the fifth-place play-in game, a defensive battle that had the feel and tone of a district game with the playoffs on the line.
In the fifth-place game, with higher doses of anxiety, North Crowley lost 55-53 to Bullitt East (Ky.) as Derek Willis drained a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left.
Willis, a Kentucky signee, had his best game of the tournament, finishing with 30 points, on 13-of-21 shooting, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
North Crowley hosts Arlington Bowie in a 3-5A game Friday in what coach Tommy Brakel called almost a "must-win" three games into the district season, before hosting Arlington Martin on Jan. 8.
Martin players and coaches were predictably elated about their tournament week, which concluded with a 57-48 loss in to Richardson Berkner in the third-place game.
"Every step we're taking here has to be with the purpose of us getting better for district play," Martin coach Jeff Plemons said.
Long on talent
Long Beach Poly (Calif.) became the eighth out-of-state team in 55 years to win the Whataburger Tournament with a 51-40 victory against Plano East.
Southern California signee and tournament most valuable player Roschon Prince (19 points, eight rebounds) and Oregon recruit Jordan Bell (14 points, eight rebounds, six blocks) led Poly.
A little consolation
Plano West edged Fort Worth Trimble Tech 46-45 in the consolation final. Guard Chasten King scored 16 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes to lift the Bulldogs to a 66-60 victory over Richland in the semifinals, and he had 22 in the final.
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