With five games to go in the regular season, the Cleburne boys picked up a huge win, 56-43 vs. Burleson Centennial. With Everman’s loss to Arlington Seguin, the Yellowjackets (21-6, 7-2 in 9-5A) moved into sole possession of first place.
The Yellowjackets got out quick, up 17-5 after the first quarter, but the Spartans (16-10, 6-3) started to chip away. Cleburne was still able to go into the break leading 29-19.
Addison Wallace finished with 14 points and 18 rebounds. Desmond Sanders scored a team-high 15 points.
“This was a big game today,” Wallace said. “I was able to start off with 11 points off the bat, but then my teammates were able to carry me when I was down, they really stepped up and came up clutch in prime time.”
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Cleburne is on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009 - also the last year the Yellowjackets won 20 games in a single season. They travel to Crowley and Seguin next week.
“Our statement is how far we’ve come in two years,” coach Kurt White said. “Two years ago we won five games; we knocked on the door on the playoffs last year, and we still have a lot of basketball left, but we have a good chance at getting in and doing what we need to do this year.”
Centennial’s Hayden Smith scored a game-high 17 points.
Circle of Friends
One game a year since 2012, Keller Central will host Circle of Friends, a group of special needs high school students. The Chargers include them at their pep rally, have them wearing jerseys to the game, and get introduced with the basketball team that night.
Head coach Gerald Sledge came up with the idea when he was a Central assistant six years ago in a way to include those kids as well as motivate his team.
“It motivates the kids and it helped last night,” he said. “It gives them perspective, what’s important in life, the gift to play this game.”
Central defeated Abilene 68-50 and improved to 12-15 overall and 3-5 in 3-6A. With five games left, the Chargers are tied for fifth with Abilene, a half game out of fourth place Haltom.
“It’s always our most competitive game,” Sledge said. “It was a way to acknowledge those kids, make them feel apart of the game. We wanted to make them apart of our program as much as possible. Win or lose, they always love the game, it’s very heartwarming.”
Latrell Jossell scored a game-high 26 points. Micah Langat and Jacob Reynolds added 10 points apiece.
“They came out very focused and locked in from the start,” Sledge said. “They knew they had the backing from the school and the circle of friends, they wanted to play for them. Every year, they look forward to this game, it means somethiing to them.”
In a game of runs, the Cleburne girls defeated Centennial 75-71 to remain in second place in 9-5A. The Yellowjackets and Spartans entered the night in a three-way tie for second.
Cleburne and Seguin are now tied with three game left. The two play at Seguin on Friday.
The Yellowjackets (12-12, 8-3) dominated from the start, going out to a 21-11 lead ater the first quarter, but the Spartans (19-8, 7-4) outscored Cleburne 29-10 in the second quarter and took a 40-31 lead into the break.
Cleburne made some halftime adjustments and started the second half with an 11-0 run, and outscored Centennial 25-3 in the third to regain the lead, 56-43 with one quarter left.
The Spartans chipped away and got within 72-71 late on a 3-pointer by Karly Burson, but Cleburne made its free throws down the stretch to pull out the victory, including a pair from Ashlynn McDonald with 24.9 seconds to go.
Akarian Morgan scored a game-high 29 points. Skaila White and Jayla Johnson added 16 points apiece.
“They played together,” coach Brooke Robinson said. “Tonight we felt like it was a total team effort. If they doubled up on Akarian, we knew we had other players that could score, and so they stepped up and played as a team and that’s what it takes.”
Birdville held Richland to single digit points in every quarter, including two in the first in its 37-23 win to clinch a postseason berth for the fifth-consecutive season.
Savannah Lawson scored a game-high 13 points with five rebounds and six steals. Cam Caruthers had 11 points with three 3-pointers and Abbey Walter chipped in 10 points and three assists. Aimee Campbell had five assists.
“Making the playoffs will never get old to me,” coach Amy Ingram said. “It’s been a lot of hard work in building a program and getting kids to believe in what you preach to them daily.”
The Hawks (19-8, 8-3 in 8-5A) enjoyed their best playoff finish last season to the regional quarterfinals. They have locked up the third seed in district and will likely play FW Arlington Heights out of 7-5A. Birdville ends the year with Colleyville Heritage, Eastern Hills and Dunbar.
“From Day 1, it’s been all about telling our kids hard work pays off,” Ingram said. “Five consecutive years now, I’m blessed to get to lead the program at Birdville, great kids and great staff.”
Along with Birdville and Cleburne, Grapevine and Seguin also clinched playoff spots.
Grapevine (16-9, 10-1 in 8-5A) defeated Dunbar 48-37. Symone Wesley had a game-high 15 points. Dasha MacMillan and Jessi Prater added 12 and 10 points. Tatum Tellin chipped in nine. The Mustangs are a game back of Heritage, and close out the season vs. the Panthers.
A 25-5 first quarter advantage was enough for Seguin in its 64-59 win over Everman. Sumaiyah Abdur-Rahim dropped a game-high 25 points. Trinitee Cannon and Darnesha Ferguson added 12 and 11 points for the Cougars (18-11, 8-3).
Trimble Tech (78-35 vs. Arlington Heights) and Kennedale (88-16 vs. Castleberry) clinched the 7-5A and 7-4A titles, respectively.