Facing a team like DeSoto, Justin Northwest’s boys basketball team would have needed beyond a perfect game to pull off an historic upset.
The Texans would have had to shoot a very high percentage, take care of the basketball and be credible on the defensive end. However, it was apparent at the beginning that none of that game plan was going to materialize.
DeSoto scored the first nine points of the game, never looked back and cruised to a 71-31 victory over Northwest in the Class 6A Region I quarterfinals March 1 at Arlington Lamar. The Texans closed their history-making season at 23-12.
“It was a tough ending for a great season,” Northwest head coach Mike Hatch said. “I just told the guys that they had nothing to be ashamed of. We were excited to have the kind of run we had. The kids enjoyed the games and really relished everything.”
Hatch admitted that if his team had just played like it had for most of the first 34 games, then it would have had a chance to stay with the Eagles, who have since advanced to the boys state tournament this weekend in San Antonio.
Getting looks wasn’t the problem. Northwest had plenty of them. However, shooters appeared as if they were trying to aim the ball into the basket instead of just using their natural motion to let the ball fly.
When that didn’t happen and the lead swelled, DeSoto applied the knockout punch. The Eagles used a full court press, forced turnovers deep in the Northwest backcourt and got easy buckets to run out to a 35-13 lead at halftime. The Eagles pretty much put this game away in the final two minutes of the first half when they hit three 3-pointers, all from Jordan Berry.
“We still felt that if we could get something going and get into any kind of a rhythm, we’d be fine,” Hatch said. “They’re definitely the best defensive team we’ve played. They have a lot of seniors on that team. There’s no question that when they smelled blood, they came after us.”
If there was an encouraging part of this game, it was the way Texan sophomore 6-8 post Darrell Simpson handled himself against DeSoto national recruit, 6-10 center Marques Bolden. Bolden scored 11 points, while Simpson scored six. But for the most part, Bolden didn’t really hurt Northwest. Of course, he was a presence and the Texans had to pay attention to him.
But the outside shooting for the Eagles proved to be too much. Northwest didn’t have a scorer in double figures.
“We were bi-district and area champions no matter what,” Hatch said. “It was going to end at some point. I’m proud of them. None of us could forecast what would happen. This will be one of the greatest moments of their lives. We were one of 32 6A teams still playing.”
The Texans will transition down to Class 5A and move into a district with Northwest Eaton, Saginaw, Saginaw Chisholm Trail, Saginaw Boswell, Aledo, White Settlement Brewer and Azle. They lose 10 seniors, including several leaders in Tavien Ezell, Elorm Koto and Javon Lipscombe. There are also key role players departing in Hunter Herrick and Michael McKinney.
But key components return, led by guard Avery Anderson, Simpson and post Fernando Ruiz. Hatch will also welcome the arrival of 6-1 wing Jordan Keys. He could have been good enough to be on the varsity this year. Hatch elected to keep him on the junior varsity because he said it would have been difficult to find him minutes.
“We’ve got to come up with a leader,” Hatch said. “When you win big games, you have to have people find a way to get you through it. We have some nice pieces to build around.”