In their four years playing together on the Bowie boys basketball team, senior guards Brandon Hall and David Chavlovich had never had a night like they did last Friday.
For the first time in their high school careers, the prolific-scoring duo led the Volunteers to a victory against rival and defending District 3-5A champion North Crowley. The Bowie drought against the Panthers actually predates the pair’s arrival at the southeast Arlington campus. Before last week’s 76-62 victory, the Vols hadn’t beaten North Crowley in six years.
“This one is different. It’s huge,” said Hall, who scored a game-high 26 points. “Coach [Allen] Gratts preached to us we need to beat North Crowley. It had been a long time.”
Getting over the hump against the Panthers wasn’t as easy as the 14-point margin of victory might imply. The Vols, 14-3 overall and 3-0 in district, struggled shooting through much of the first half and led by just a point at the half. But hot shooting and timely transition baskets by Hall and Chavlovich, who had 17 points, helped turn the tide in Bowie’s favor in the second half.
“Offensively, I thought we played really well the second half,” Gratts said. “I didn’t think we played well in the first half. When we start rebounding, we start scoring some points.”
The rebounding and defense are proved in large part by the efforts of 6-foot-10 center Dante Hales. The wiry junior is new to the Vols, having played his sophomore season at Dallas Woodrow Wilson. He’s averaging about 10 points a game, but admits he’s still trying to fit in on the offensive end. But he’s already a formidable presence on the opponents’ end of the court. He’s blocking seven shots a game and grabbing eight rebounds.
“He always blocks shots,” said Chavlovich, who before this season played on the same AAU team as Hales. “He’s going to be a really good player.”
Chavlovich has made it a point to try to get the ball to Hales in the low block, setting him up for potential close-range shots or trips to the free throw line. “I think he can get way better on offense,” Chavlovich said. “We just need to continue to feed him in the post and work on his foot work.”
While most players like to rattle the rim, Hales said he gets just as excited to block a shot as he does to throw down a dunk. Not surprisingly, he sees his main job to be getting stops on defense and turning those defensive plays into fast-break chances.
“I’m definitely focused on protecting the bucket and stopping them from scoring … and getting us baskets on the other side of the floor,” Hales said.
The mere threat of a block can cause an opponent to hurry an attempt or to hesitate to bring the ball inside. “Our main objective with Dante is for him to change shots,” Gratts said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to block them, but he has to change shots.”
When Hales is contributing blocks, boards and the occasional bucket down low, he’s acting as an ideal complement to the senior guards. Hales marvels at the way Hall and Chavlovich can create open shots for themselves, for each other and for their teammates.
“They do the scoring and creating the shots so we have open looks,” Hales said.
Chavlovich, who has been a starter since his sophomore year, remembers how fast the high school game used to feel. Now, it’s as if he’s playing at normal speed and everyone else is in slow motion.
“I feel like I have control over everything,” he said.
Hall, whom Gratts credits with improving his outside shooting tremendously since his junior year, feels equally comfortable driving inside for a lay-up as he isn’t at putting up a three-pointer. And Chavlovich brings similar versatility and precise passing. Moreover, the players say they have an intuition about where the other one is on the court at any time.
“It’s great chemistry,” Hall said. “We know each other’s hot spots and we can get it to each other where we love to shoot it.”
Bowie, which won the Fort Worth ISD holiday tournament, has shown signs it can be a force to reckon with not only in district play but in the playoffs next month. But many challenges still remain. Hall, Chavlovich and company still must face North Crowley on the road, play Martin twice and have two contests against likely playoff team Lamar. But Hall’s confident the Vols will be a special squad when everything’s said and done.
“If we rebound well, we beat teams really bad,” Hall said. “We feel like we can compete with any team, because our offense can ball out.”