Scott Curran needs to keep reminding people that he still has a pretty young boys basketball team at Byron Nelson.
This group is nothing like his 31-5 Class 4A Region I finalist squad. Sure, he has three returning players from that team – the three key ones in junior forward Emmanuel Nzekwesi, senior forward Cale Popovich and senior guard Thomas Williams – but it takes more than three to create a team.
So there will be some hiccups along the way, such as the 53-43 overtime loss at Wichita Falls. The Bobcats (16-6, 4-1 in District 5-4A) couldn’t make a shot despite collecting 23 offensive rebounds. But Curran also knows what happened on the long bus ride to the Red River.
“We were just mentally not prepared to play,” he said. “Hopefully, it was a lesson learned and that we have to be ready to go at all times. Every year is different.”
And so is every game. Still, when this team has gone through a bad game, it usually has responded the right way. Indeed, the Bobcats took care of business on Friday with a 66-38 victory over White Settlement Brewer. Ethan Davis continues to reward Curran as a starter because he is emerging as a scoring threat. He had 11 points against the Bears. He’s been in double figures in two of the last three games.
The Bobcats close the first half of district play Tuesday at Azle before playing host to Denton on Friday.
“The good thing is that we control our own destiny,” Curran said. “Our kids know that if we aren’t playing our best, we still have to do the little things to win games like not turn it over, and make free throws.”
The Texans (18-3, 5-0 in District 4-5A) began the week in sole possession of first place following an impressive 57-54 victory over Richland and comfortable 78-40 victory at Keller Central last week.
But they will see two vastly different approaches this week. On Tuesday, they faced the deliberate attack of Keller, which likes to operate in a zone. On Friday, Northwest plays at Keller Fossil Ridge, which favors the open floor game.
“Our kids have played a lot of different ways, so that’s the part we’ll be prepared for,” head coach Mike Hatch said. “When Keller gets in the zone, we’ll have to be patient up and down the floor and then it’s a matter of stepping up and just making shots.
“Against Fossil Ridge, we’re going to find out a lot more about our toughness. We’re pretty skilled but we’re not as physical as we need to be. If we can win that game playing that tough, that will continue to help build things this year.”
But the Texans probably earned a little more on the toughness scale when they beat Richland, which features arguably the most athletic team in the district. The Texans rallied from behind in the third quarter and then held on despite some spotty play.
Still, it never hurts to have quality guard play. Senior Josh Tatum has been in control of this team throughout, averaging 6.3 assists to 2.5 turnovers.
“I have such confidence in him,” Hatch said. “He doesn’t get panicked or frustrated. Really, the game slows down for him.”
Senior guard Taylor Johnson will be playing at Dartmouth in the Ivy League next year, his father Rusty said … The Texans are on pace for their fifth 20-win season in Hatch’s six seasons.