Usually, the boys basketball playoff drama in District 4-5A goes all the way down to the final night. That won’t be the case this year.
When Southlake Carroll lost to Keller Fossil Ridge last Friday, it clinched a playoff spot for Northwest. The Texans (21-6, 8-3) are in the postseason for the fifth time in head coach Mike Hatch’s six seasons. Carroll’s loss took a little of the sting out of Northwest’s 72-63 loss to Richland that same night.
“It’s a nice feeling to know that because it’s always hard to get into the playoffs,” Hatch said. “It’s always a neat experience, but with this group, we want to go a couple of rounds. It’s not enough just to go. We want to make some noise.
“But the playoffs are tough. Everybody is good. And you have to play at a high level every time you are out there. You can’t turn it off and on.”
Hatch called the performance at Richland a rough defensive performance. The Rebels’ quickness became a factor. The Texans couldn’t keep the Rebels out of the paint, Hatch said.
The loss also squelched senior guard Taylor Johnson’s career-high 35-point performance. It’s the second time this season Johnson has scored more than 30. He dropped 30 against Plano West on Dec. 28 in the Whataburger Tournament.
“This game was different for Taylor than Plano West, because he was working so hard for every bucket and tried to keep us in the game,” Hatch said.
A good thing
After Tuesday’s game against Keller Central, the Texans finish the regular season against two other playoff-bound teams, Friday at Keller and next Tuesday against Keller Fossil Ridge on Senior Night.
The Texans still have a chance at the district championship, but they also want to avoid finishing fourth. They are two games behind district leader Keller and one game ahead of fourth place Richland.
“Our league is really tough,” Hatch said. “When you play good competition, it should bring out the best in you. I think these games will be good for us and help us stay focused.”
Hatch said he hopes the last three games will do more to bring junior forward David Ogunwolu more into the offense.
“We just really need to clean up some of the sloppy things on defense and keeping people in front us,” Hatch said. “Really, if we play well, we can play with anyone.”
The last three games in the District 5-4A race should be a case of who blinks first between Byron Nelson (20-7, 9-2) and Denton Guyer (15-8, 9-2).
After Guyer beat Nelson on Jan. 28, 53-38, it created a two-way for the district lead. Both teams have favorable schedules the rest of the way. Unless there’s a slipup, the teams are heading toward sharing the championship.
Guyer’s last three games are against Wichita Falls Rider, Old High and White Settlement. Nelson finishes with Brewer, Azle and Denton. The district playoff race has been settled as Brewer and Denton have also clinched playoff spots.
“It’s a cliché, but we really can’t focus on the district championship,” head coach Scott Curran said. “It’s one game at a time. We have got to focus on where we are strong, improve where we are not and start preparing.”
As we mentioned last week, the emergence of forward Jack Nobles continues. He scored a career-high 21 points in the 83-38 victory last Friday over Wichita Falls. It’s his second double-digit scoring game in the last three. He could evolve into a fourth scorer on this team behind Emmanuel Nzekwesi, Thomas Williams and Ethan Davis.