It was a long season and a long road, but Keller’s boys basketball players hung up their jerseys after a loss in the Region I quarterfinals of the playoffs.
What they also will hang up is another banner. The Indians finished as co-owners of another district championship.
It marks the third time in as many years that the Indians have shared or won outright district championships.
Along the way, Keller beat Lewisville in an overtime thriller in the first round of the playoffs and then had to wait over a week to pull off an upset over DeSoto in the second round.
Last week, a day after knocking off the fourth-ranked Eagles, Keller’s season ended when Allen proved just too much for Indians in the back-to-back playoff games which were necessitated by the weather.
The Desoto win was special for the program, said Keller head coach Randall Durant, who before the game had researched the Eagles’ program and realized that over the last five years, DeSoto had compiled a 165-16 record.
There was much anxiety and uncertainty before that win came for the Indians. Upon reflection on the season, Durant harkened back to the start of the season when the Indians were 2-4.
Durant thought that early juncture in the season may have been the turning point for the team.
“We gave up 65 points per game,” Durant said of the sub .500 start. “We usually give up about 40. We started putting it together then. We got better on the defensive end as the year went along, which is what gives you a chance to win.”
Keller finished 22-10 on the season and had they not had to endure time off the court by standouts R.J. Nembhard and Ben Bahr, they might have done even better.
The Indians were paced and led by Nembhard, who is just a sophomore and Nolan Taylor, just a junior. But they also had solid contributions game in and game out by other starters, including Brock Anders, Quinn Shoop and Christian Guillory.
Graduation will take Anders, Guillory, Blake Nelson and Shoop, along with others.
But on the bus coming back to Keller after the loss to Allen, Durant said thoughts of how he’d set up the spring drills were already entering his mind.
“We’ll take two weeks off to clear our head and recuperate, and rinse the season out of our system,” Durant said. “Then, after spring break, we’ll start with our shooting clinic and line out our leagues,” heading into the summer for Keller.
The spring will be an important time of development for other players such as Bahr, Paul Brewer and Shane Steinkraus.
Keller will again be young next season, but with Taylor, Nembhard and Bahr returning, there will be experience. But that’s about all the court time-tested players back for the Indians.
“There’s nothing more valuable than experience,” Durant added. “Brock will be hard to replace, but we’ll be at a better starting point. It’s a good stepping stone.”
Durant said the spring and summer months, when players develop, can be a fun time for a coach.