District competition will be in full force when the Mansfield boys basketball team resumes play following the holiday break, and the Tigers’ first opponent is going to be doozy.
Mansfield will host Arlington at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 3, and coach Jason Speakes said that if tradition holds to form, it will be dog fight.
“The last three times we’ve played Arlington high, the game has gone to overtime,” Speakes said. “I expect this year’s matchup to be very competitive as well. Both programs are very familiar with each other. They are tough and physical, known for their sound half-court man-to-man defense. Offensively, we won’t get anything easy. Execution will be critically important.”
The Tigers opened up district competition last Tuesday with a 67-42 victory over Fort Worth Paschal.
Donald Whiteside led the team in scoring with 19 points, while Saiid Adebo scored 11.
Evan McCarthy, Garret Shaw, Mason Schott, Taylor Gary, Willis Patrick, Kason Cooper, Alex Steward and Andrew Thomas combined for 37 points.
“We enter the Christmas break at 8-8, riding a four-game winning streak,” Speaks said. “Our last game before the break was a 67-42 win over Paschal in our district opener, led by senior D.J. Whiteside who finished with 19 points, five assists and three steals. We are playing our best basketball of the year right now, as our guys have grown comfortable with the rotation and understanding their roles.”
Speakes said that he feels very good about the non-district schedule and believes it has prepared his team well for district competition.
“We’ve played a quality nondistrict schedule, and will step out of district over the holidays to play in the Moritz Dealerships Classic in Aledo,” Speakes said. “We’ve been on the short side of some close ball games early on this season, but the experience gained in playing in those tight games will only benefit us moving forward. Valuing high quality shots, taking care of the ball and executing our defensive assignments in close games were things we struggled with early on, but are areas where we’ve shown considerable improvement the last few weeks.”
In order to have a successful district season, Speakes said it will take a few things.
“We are a senior-laden team, and we will be relying on the experience and leadership of those guys to guide us through the district schedule,” Speakes said. “Seniors D.J. Whiteside, Garrett Shaw and Saiid Adebo have been playing great basketball and will need to continue to do so for us to reach our goal of making the postseason. Sophomore Evan McCarthy has really emerged to become a very reliable weapon for us as well.
“We’ve played really well at home this year, going 5-1. If we can continue to defend our home court and sneak a few wins on the road, we will be in good shape. I expect our district schedule to be loaded with close ball games, and how we perform down the stretch of games will determine how successful this season will be.”