Keller and Justin Northwest are holding on to their respective district boys basketball leads, but the next three games will tell more about who’s in, who’s out and what seed they can take into the playoffs.
Keller learned the importance of standout players and the need to rely on its own depth.
The Indians lost to Keller Timber Creek 70-54 last week. R.J. Nembhard missed the game with a sprained thumb.
They’re now 5-1 and were able to get back on the horse against Haltom even without Nembhard and others
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But Keller head coach Randall Durant isn’t ready to look too far ahead or count any proverbial chickens.
“One baby step at a time,” he said.
Indeed, Nembhard plays a huge role for the Indians, but he won’t be held as the only reason for the loss to the Falcons.
“R.J. has been playing at an all-state level, making things easier for everyone in all phases of the game,” Durant said. So, without him, we have to have great shot selection and will have to get contributions from lots of guys.
Carson Hughes led the Indians in both games last week, scoring 22 and 19 points.
Keller has also been tagged with having to juggle its lineup as three other players are out, too. Having to play with an arm tied behind their back has limited versatility.
The Haltom win was about the team demonstrating trust in each other and not forcing things, Durant said.
“The main thing is the guys think they are going to win, and that’s half the battle,” he added.
The Indians are at Abilene and Keller Fossil Ridge this week.
Northwest is 7-0 and in first place after getting past a sizable test in defeating White Settlement Brewer last week, 40-32. The win keeps the Texans still a game ahead of Saginaw Chisholm Trail in District 6-5A.
That pivotal second game with Chisholm Trail comes on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at home for Northwest.
In the meantime, Northwest will take on Saginaw and Saginaw Boswell this week.
Still maintaining a good footing in District 3-6A behind Keller is Fossil Ridge.
The Panthers, 4-2, are having a strong showing as they prepare to take on Weatherford, Haltom and then Keller. They dropped their game on Friday night to Abilene on the road.
With three teams tied at 3-3, every game becomes critical in the race for a playoff spot.
“Anyone you play, you’re battling for a playoff spot,” said Ridge head coach Zack Myers. “Every game creates separation. After (losing at) Abilene, rather than a three-game lead, we have a one-game lead. It’s a big swing either way.”
But the Panthers are playing some of their best basketball — with the exception of the Abilene game — and Myers said he’s pleased with the mentality and energy the players bring to practice.
“We’ve got a great mindset and each game we’re getting better,” Myers said.
Timber Creek is locked with Abilene and Haltom at 3-3 for third place.
The Falcons have Central, Weatherford and Abilene up next, which will be a telling stretch.
Keller Central gained momentum with a win over Weatherford 59-54 last week. The Chargers will look to keep that feeling in tact as they play Timber Creek, Abilene and Haltom.
The Chargers are still just a game behind the three-way tie for fourth between Abilene, Haltom and Timber Creek, so this week’s games are huge for Central.
At Trophy Club Nelson, the Bobcats also felt the taste of winning again with a 55-46 decision over Flower Mound. Nelson, 2-5 in District 5-6A, will have Trinity and Carroll this week.
Eaton will have its hands full with Chisholm Trail on Tuesday and then a bye on Friday.
More sports coverage at kellercitizen.com