If you were to judge Southlake Carroll’s boys basketball team by its looks, you might dismiss it. That would be a mistake.
Watch this team on the court and it’s a shock to the system.
“People essentially have to bring their track shoes,’’ senior guard Stephen Blomstrom said.
The Dragons may the intriguing story of the 2017-18 that few know about. Carroll (24-4, 8-2 District 5-6A) is contending for its first district championship since 1993-1994 and using a full-court approach to do it. It’s also chasing the single-season school record for wins (27-5 in 1988-1989).
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The stale half-court game is history. This is the Dragon Express. Carroll wants to run the opposition ragged because it believes it has more in its reserves it to play for 32 minutes, or beyond if it must.
Head coach Eric McDade, now in his sixth season, decided to change course before this season began. He wanted to play full court. The thinking was to increase the number of possessions. There are more shots, better shots and the ability to create turnovers.
This team not only warmed to the change, it ran with it. Literally. The Dragons are averaging 70 points per game (the school record is 72.0 in 1998-1989 and 1990-1991), shooting 50 percent on all non 3-point attempts, 32 percent from behind the arc and 74 percent at the foul line. In some respects, it’s a game of horse. Yhe Dragons have been making more knockout shots.
“If we added possessions, we would get scenarios that we could create extra chances,” McDade said. “Last year, we didn’t have as many chances because we were in the half court. This team is smart. There’s buy-in. They’re empowered.”
To play this style demands a lot behind-the-scenes work. Conditioning makes it possible. It’s about making sure that by the end of the fourth quarter, this team hasn’t experienced any drop off or mental fatigue.
Players’ eyes got wide at the prospect of running continuous suicide reps in the gym. Then came reaching the breaking point and seeing whether the players could push themselves beyond their limits. They did.
“It’s a big change,” senior forward Jack McBride said. “The practices are different. But I know the kind of guys we have on this team. We push ourselves and want to grind it out. We’re all buying in for 32 minutes.”
Still, it comes down to results. This program had broken 70 points 17 times and 80 eight times before its most recent week of play. In 2016-2017, Carroll surpassed 70 points twice.
A trip to Houston for the a tournament in November revealed resolve. While Carroll lost to defending Class 5A state champion Mansfield Timberview, 77-70, it defeated a solid Alief Taylor team, 72-59.
It’s also found a way to win games in the throwback pace. The Dragons defeated Arlington Martin 41-36.
“We knew what we wanted to do,” senior guard Cam Cozzens said. “This was really about the seniors sacrificing and changing the culture. Things were not right and we weren’t getting done. But if we gave of ourselves and things changed either this year or the next, it would be worth it.”
It appears to be worth it. Witness the 69-66 home win over Lewisville on Jan. 23.
Carroll trailed by as many as seven points and trailed going into the fourth quarter. The Dragons finally took the lead with about three minutes to play.
It got dicey when they missed some free throws at the end and had to withstand an errant 3-point shot by the Farmers as time expired that would have tied it.
These are the games Carroll is winning. Carroll lost this game last year, 48-43.
“We decided to be dogs and just out-tough people,” Blomstrom said. “It’s about going hard on defense and making the plays that have to be made. You have to win that way, too.”