The Azle girls basketball team had not made the playoffs since in 2006. So when the Hornets clinched a spot in the postseason this year, they were in one sense just happy to get there. But they also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.Azle defeated Saginaw Boswell 45-41 on Tuesday, advancing into an area matchup against Fort Worth Trimble Tech at Boswell at 6:30 p.m. Friday.“They were just not going to let that ‘W’ get away from them,” Azle coach Mitzi Marquart said. “We knew we had our hands full [with Boswell]. To be able to get there and win that first game in the playoffs, it was a really big deal for our kids and our school and our community.”Azle is 22-10, having clinched its first 20-win season in Marquart’s fourth year at the school. The Hornets will have a challenge against Trimble Tech, whose only losses have come against Aledo (three times), Austin Westlake and Arlington Bowie. Navigating through a competitive District 5-4A should be to Azle’s benefit, Marquart said. “There’s no question [Trimble Tech] is going to be tough and very athletic,” she said. “We need to go in and play very disciplined basketball. It helped us through the district.”Aledo shakes off rust Aledo coach Mike Pinkerton had just coached his team to a 16-point victory Wednesday night over Burleson, his first playoff victory as a head coach and the first postseason game for a Bearcats team looking to return to the Class 4A state tournament. But Pinkerton wasn’t entirely enthused after the game.“We just didn’t play really well,” he said. “We didn’t execute. We’re better than what we showed.”Aledo will have a chance to improve as it travels to Saginaw Chisholm Trail on Friday nightfor an area-round game against Trophy Club Nelson. The two-day turnaround will be in sharp contrast to the eight-day layoff the Bearcats had leading up to Wednesday’s bi-district game in Mansfield.Aledo’s game with Burleson was pushed back a day, because of icy conditions on area roads. The Bearcats’ last regular-season game was Feb. 4 against Trimble Tech. On Tuesday, with school canceled at Aledo, Pinkerton said he had his players stay home, stretch on their own and get rested. He doesn’t foresee playing two games in three days after a layoff to be a problem. One thing that wasn’t a problem Wednesday was Aledo’s offense. The Bearcats put up 28 points in the first quarter and had scored 44 by halftime. But they also allowed Burleson to stay in contact with five 3-pointers in the first quarter. A halftime adjustment on defense straightened things out for Aledo, Pinkerton said. “At some points, it was deer-in-the-headlights [for Aledo on defense],” Pinkerton said. “We adjusted, got better at halftime and said, look, this is what we worked on, this is what we’ve always worked on.”Going westIt’s a common problem in the playoffs for most area coaches: El Paso is about as close to California as it is to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. That means there’s usually an aspect of unfamiliarity that comes with playing Texas teams in a different time zone. That will be the case Friday for Arlington Martin (El Paso Bel Air), Lamar (EP Franklin) and Bowie (EP Coronado) as they meet in the area round of the Class 5A playoffs. Martin (22-7), which defeated Richland on Tuesday, plays Bel Air at 4 p.m. at Odessa College. The Warriors are staying in Midland. They bused there Thursday afternoon.Coach Brooke Brittain said her team has spent the past two days doing as much homework as possible on Bel Air (20-8). Brittain has had student managers keep up with the El Paso teams all season.Brittain said there wasn’t much stress put on her concerning the travel. Arlington ISD’s athletics department set up a couple travel options Wednesday, and Brittain was able to reserve Midland College’s gym for a shootaround before the game.“Arlington ISD athletics makes my life easy, so my coaches can sit back and get to work on the court,” Brittain said. Bowie (27-3) also drove to Midland on Thursday, stopping at McMurry University in Abilene for an afternoon practice. Coach Kelly Carruthers said her team is familiar with Coronado. In addition to having the team watch film this week, Carruthers sent an assistant to El Paso recently to watch Coronado.
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @RyanOsborneFWST