Playoff basketball can be so cruel. The Byron Nelson boys seemed seconds away from escaping a hard fought Class 4A Region I area playoff win over Waco.
When the Waco 3-ball missed everything, a Lions’ player flung up a desperation shot that Nelson’s Emmanuel Nzekwesi tipped. Nzekwesi did the right thing as the ball went high in the air. Stunningly, it fell through the basket as time expired to send the game into overtime.
With Nelson emotionally spent – the Bobcats had a five-point lead with 1:10 to play in regulation – the Lions came away with a 75-70 victory to advance. Nelson’s season concluded at 25-8.
But the game became more about what neither team could do – value the basketball. The Bobcats committed 37 turnovers. It wasn’t just limited to the guards. The issues impacted every part of this team.
“It was an emotional way to end it,” head coach Scott Curran said. “There were a lot of heartbroken kids. Honestly, I thought this group had a chance to make a deep run. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. But it was a really good high school basketball game.”
The way the ragged play went, Curran only had five timeouts with which to work. He only called one in the first half because he figured he was going to need the other four in the second half.
But that’s life in the playoffs. Sometimes, the play won’t be pretty. Possessions will be tough. Things can turn quickly and the season will be over because one team did the little things.
Still, Nelson continued a streak of three consecutive seasons where it either won or shared the district championship. With nine new players on this roster, the Bobcats managed to go 12-2 and win the outright championship as Denton Guyer lost in the final game.
“They’re a resilient group,” Curran said. “You couldn’t ask for a better effort and attitude from the kids. Character and composure is what made this team. The seniors were great. But I’m really excited about what have coming back next year.”
The good news is that this playoff run did include the best defensive performance of the year in the bi-district round, a 46-32 victory over Fort Worth Eastern Hills. The Highlanders only scored eight points in the second half.
Nelson will lose senior point guard Thomas Williams, off guard Ethan Davis and forward Cale Popovich.
And Curran will have Nzekwesi running the post. At 6-7, Nzekwesi played this season at about 220 pounds. Look for him to probably add 5-10 more pounds in the offseason so he will be ready for his senior year.
“He’s getting bigger and stronger and you never have to worry about his work ethic,” Curran said.
The point guard situation should start with 5-7 Kadeem Ellington and 6-3 Jeremiah Taylor. The two have shown a great knack for handling the ball in any situation. Forward Jack Nobles should be taking the momentum of a strong finish into the offseason.
Of course, this program is moving up to the 6A level in 2014-2015, so the depth of the district will be a challenge.
“We just have to work to be ready to play,” Curran said. “But we’ll be ready for it.”