District play resumed for the three Northwest ISD boys basketball programs on Tuesday. Justin Northwest played host to Saginaw Boswell while Northwest V.R. Eaton faced Aledo in District 6-5A. Northwest Byron Nelson played host to Carroll in District 5-6A.
District championships were neither won nor lost with the single district games each program played in December. But now the urgency changes as the calendar flips to January. It’s only Tuesday and Friday now. Following Tuesday, there are only 12 opportunities remaining.
We assess what it’s going to take for each of these teams to make it to the playoffs and farther.
Byron Nelson (11-8): Keep in mind that head coach Scott Curran’s program has never missed the postseason since the school opened in 2009-2010. It started playing a varsity schedule in 2010-2011.
The disappointment in the 59-57 loss at Euless Trinity on Dec. 20 was that the Bobcats let an 11-point lead get away from them. The 5-6A race appears to have no clear favorite.
“Opposing teams are more prepared and coaches usually do a great job scouting you,” Curran said. “I think our tournament [Moritz Invitational] against teams like Richardson and Rockwall-Heath should get us ready for the rest of everything, because we’re playing quality opponents.”
The key to any district race is protecting the home court and then finding a way to win on the road. But Curran isn’t really sure how that philosophy will play out with his team.
“Every year is different,” Curran said. “I’ve had some teams that played better on the road than they did at home. But obviously, if you’re going to win a district championship, you have to find a way to steal a couple in the other place. The most important thing is that our defense has to be there every night.”
For Nelson to qualify for a seventh consecutive postseason berth, Curran needs to have consistent offensive performances from junior guard Braylen Young, junior forward David Nzekwesi and senior post Nils Huizenga.
Justin Northwest (15-4): Mike Hatch’s program is looking for its seventh playoff appearance in nine seasons. This appears to be his most prolific scoring team. However, Hatch isn’t sold on the defensive effort yet.
“Most everyone we’re going to play is going to have someone who can score,” Hatch said. “We have to find someone who will be able to guard and make stops. This team hasn’t come together defensively.”
What the Texans have is a point guard in senior Tucker Dunn. Hatch relies on Dunn to set the tone. Dunn plays with a fearless resolve. He’s already taken 19 charges. When he took a cut above the eye in the Moritz Invitational tournament last week, Dunn got treatment and wanted to return to the game against Keller, a 59-51 loss.
“There’s not an ego to him,” Hatch said. “He’s so tough mentally. He keeps our team going when things are not going well. It’s hard for us to do anything when he’s not on the floor.”
Northwest’s scoring starts with sophomore guard Avery Anderson. But the complements are Jordan Keyes, Darrell Simpson in the post and Julien Smith. The 6-5A championship will probably come down to who has the better of the meetings between Northwest, Saginaw Chisholm Trail and White Settlement Brewer.
Northwest Eaton (4-11): The Eagles are going through the growing pains of a first-year program. Head coach Anthony Howerton has maintained that it could take until the second half of district play for his group to play at a level he expects. If that happens, then the Eagles could play the role of spoiler.