Elijah Christman apparently decided it was just time. Nearly a year removed from ACL surgery, the Northwest senior guard/forward is playing at the level that he envisioned.
It’s been within the last three weeks that head coach Mike Hatch has seen Christman become more aggressive attacking the rim, contesting shots and fighting for more rebounds.
In games last week against Keller Timber Creek and Denton Ryan, Christman averaged 21 points. The Texans (10-13, 3-4 in District 5-6A) made the turn in district play still in a decent position to make a playoff run. They trailed Northwest ISD rival Byron Nelson by one game for fourth place. The second half of the season began Tuesday at home against Keller Central. Northwest plays at Nelson on Friday.
“He finally feels good about himself and the knee,” Hatch said. “He’s aggressive. But he’s been dealing with it and fighting through the frustration. Then, he couldn’t be as athletic, jump or move side to side like he wanted to.” For the season, Christman is averaging about 18 points per game, shooting 36 percent from 3-point range, 52 percent from within the arc.
“I think he just realized that, he said ‘to heck with it’ and turned it loose,” Hatch said. “It’s been tough on him, but I think he finally decided he was going to just go get it.”
By no coincidence, the Northwest offense has looked better. Between Christman’s confidence and the insertion of Tavien Ezell into the starting lineup two weeks ago, it has been much more efficient.
In the last four games, Northwest has averaged better than 60 points per game. That kind of productivity is going to keep a team in a district race. While the Texans have split those four games, there is optimism going into the last four weeks.
“I think we’re playing so much better,” Hatch said. “Our kids are getting more and more confident each game. And really, I think we’re actually pretty excited about the second half so we can stay in the hunt and win some games.”
While Christman has been excelling, senior post Darriel Eyaa has lost some of his productivity. Hatch attributes that to Eyaa struggling to finish shots around the basket. But the lineup change has somewhat changed how the offense is going to him. Hatch admits there have not been as many opportunities …. The Texans’ free-throw shooting is climbing toward respectability. Saddled in the low 60 percent range in December, the team is now at 70 percent. Last week against Timber Creek and Ryan, the Texans were 32-36 at the line.
Byron Nelson update
The Bobcats (14-8, 4-3) suffered a tough loss against Keller Timber Creek last Tuesday but came back with a very impressive victory against Denton Guyer on Friday. Coach Scott Curran’s team had five players reach double figures.
But that’s not too surprising. Following its last three losses – Keller, Denton Guyer and Timber Creek – Nelson has followed up with a win.
“We responded well,” Curran said. “This team has always done that. When you get beat, it always re-focuses you on what you have to do to be successful.”
As the Bobcats move toward the end of their first year in Class 6A ball, Curran has noted how much depth can make a difference at this level. It’s what separates the playoff teams from those who miss the postseason.
“There are no nights off at 6A,” he said. “Depth is a big issue. You have more kids to choose from and that really can make a team.”