The more teams try to figure out how to defend Justin Northwest senior guard Tevian Ezell, the more he finds a way to deal with and adjust to it.
All he did against Keller Timber Creek last Friday was convert a school record seven 3-pointers and deliver a career-high 29 points in Northwest’s 63-46 victory.
“It’s simply about confidence,” head coach Mike Hatch said. “When you have someone like Tevian out there, he believes that every shot is going to go in. We need him to make shots if we’re going to be good.
“He’s the best pure shooter in the eight years I’ve been here. It’s important to him. He works hard and everything he’s done has paid off. The best part of his situation is that he’s gone through some bad shooting nights and had the maturity to move on.”
The Texans (15-6, 3-0 in District 5-6A) put themselves in a good position through the first 20 percent of the playoff chase with wins over Byron Nelson and Timber Creek. But this week presents a greater challenge with a Tuesday road game at Denton Ryan and playing host to Keller on Friday. The Raiders were 2-1, while the 5-6A favorite Indians were also 3-0.
Besides Ezell, the offensive efficiency has increased because of the return of sophomore post Darrell Simpson. Since returning following an undisclosed absence on Dec. 18, the 6-8 Simpson is averaging nine rebounds per game.
“He’s such a physical presence and become a tremendous passer,” Hatch said. “So he gives us a little bit of everything. What’s really good is that since he came back, he looks forward to coming every day. He sticks around after practice at shooting. He knows it’s really important to him to play well and contribute.”
It’s now a trend. Northwest’s defense has been very stifling through the first three district games. Teams are shooting only 33 percent against the Texans.
“Everybody feeds off each other, and we’re making it hard for other teams to take good shots,” Hatch said.
Byron Nelson update
It may have saved the season. Trailing 28-9 to start last Friday’s game at Denton Guyer, Northwest Byron Nelson found the defensive prowess to turn that into a 58-56 victory.
This team put together a 26-2 run on the Wildcats that fueled the comeback.
“As I’ve said they’re resilient kids and have done this before,” head coach Scott Curran said. “We have not played well for the last couple of weeks. But we just kept going and the guys keep sticking with the plan.”
Of course, the Bobcats (12-8, 1-2 in 5-6A) had to use the flare for the dramatic at the end. They used a Jack Nobles basket with 1.1 seconds remaining to break the 56-56 tie. After some issues with the clock, Guyer was able to get off the tying shot as time expired. But the made basket didn’t count because the horn had sounded.
The only issue for this team is guard Alphonso Hawkins (knee). He played against Northwest but experienced soreness and stiffness following it and did not play against Guyer. Curran said he will have to monitor Hawkins on a game-by-game basis to determine if he can or cannot play.