By BRAD KEITH
(February 23, 2015) — Six area prep teams are alive in the UIL state basketball playoffs, and five of them put their seasons on the line Tuesday and Wednesday. Below are previews of games involving Stephenville’s boys and girls, Huckabay’s girls, Dublin’s boys and Lingleville’s boys.
The girls teams are fighting for spots in this weekend’s regional tournaments, while boys teams are in the opening round. Huckabay’s boys have a first-round bye and will face Mullin or Covington in the area round.
All games, of course, are weather permitting:
STEPHENVILLE GIRLS vs. GODLEY
6 p.m. Wednesdsay at Aledo High School
Winner meets Seminole or Bushland at 7 p.m. Friday at Texas Tech in Lubbock
Stephenville is looking for a regional hat trick. The Honeybees are aiming for a third straight trip to the 4A Region I tournament in Lubbock.
Stephenville has won six straight area championships, and is 2-3 in the regional quarterfinals over that stretch. They survived round three of the playoffs in 2013, advancing all the way to the regional final.
Once again, the regional quarterfinals feature a litmus test of sorts, as Stephenville meets No. 10 Godley, a team that has lost only three times this season.
“It’s two teams that are almost identical. We both love to shoot the three and we’re both pretty good at it,” said Stephenville head coach Alan Thorpe, who has led the Honeybees to each of those six straight area round wins. “We have to guard the perimeter and we have to find a way to control the backboards, because they are bigger than us.”
Size benefits Godley, but quickness and athleticism on the perimeter favors Stephenville with guards Bayleigh Chaviers, Cassidy Cline and others. Not that Godley is lacking for athleticism itself.
“They aren’t unathletic, that’s for sure,” said Thorpe. “They do have one really quick girl out there, and they are all good players.”
Yet his Honeybees defeated Godley during the regular season. Stephenville edged Godley 51-46 in the championship of tournament play in Glen Rose.
“That was a great game, and I think this will be a great game,” said Thorpe. “They like to press and run and shoot the three, and that’s probably what most coaches would tell you about facing us. It’s going to be a fun matchup and a good one.”
Stephenville arrived in the regional quarterfinals by erasing a 10-point deficit over the final seven minutes to top Vernon 57-56 in bi-district then edging Decatur 47-44 in area.
Godley has cruised to this point, thrashing Fort Worth Castleberry 86-17 before throttling Iowa Park 55-26.
The winner advances to the regional tournament this weekend at Texas Tech’s United Spirit Arena, and will face Seminole or Bushland at 7 p.m. Friday.
STEPHENVILLE BOYS vs. IOWA PARK
6 p.m. Wednesday at Jacksboro HS
Winner meets Bridgeport or Venus
Stephenville opens 4A Region I boys playoff action with a rematch from a holiday tournament game.
The Yellow Jackets take on District 5-4A runner-up Iowa Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Jacksboro High School. They played on a neutral court on Dec. 31 and Stephenville won 61-57.
“We are kind of opposites, but at the same time, we’re pretty equal,” said Stephenville head coach Jonathan Normand, whose team placed third in 6-4A. “They’re very guard heavy with not much interior, but they can all shoot pretty well. We depend on our interior first, then our outside game feeds off that.”
Normand said Iowa Park tried a man defense against Stepehenville in the first battle, but that’s not what he expects with each club’s season on the line.
“They played us man the first time and had a hard time matching up with us. They’ve been playing a lot of zones here lately,” Normand explained. “I think they’re going to play zone as much as they can and try to make us beat them from the perimeter.”
Normand said the keys for his team are simple.
“We have to guard them out there on the perimeter and we have to take advantage of our size, that’s what it’s going to boil down to,” he stated.
The winner likely meets talent-laden Bridgeport in the area round, assuming the Bulls handle Venus in bi-district Tuesday.
HUCKABAY GIRLS vs. LIPAN
6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Eastland HS
Winner meets Satillo or Campbell at 6 p.m. Friday at Mansfield HS
Huckabay has enjoyed what many would label a magical ride.
The Lady Indians won just one game last season. Then head coach Caleb Walls returned to the school after a year coaching boys at Baird. He has led a resurgence that is near unparalleled, taking Huckabay to an area championship in his first year back.
Now comes the toughest of tests the Lady Indians have faced. And it’s not as if that’s a big secret.
Huckabay lost to Lipan 63-36 on January 20, but when the teams rematched in 18-A play on Feb. 6, HHS cut that deficit from 27 to 16 in a 69-53 loss. They’ll be looking to trim the rest of that margin and pull off a mammoth upset at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Eastland.
Lipan split the 18-A title with fellow perennial power Strawn, and took the league’s top seed into the playoffs. After a first-round bye, Lipan ran over Gustine 86-34 for its area title.
Huckabay has also been dominant in the playoffs, beating Perrin-Whitt 48-25 and Iredell 44-28.
The winner of the regional quarterfinal moves on to the 1A Region III tournament at Mansfield High School and faces Satillo or Campbell at 6 p.m. Friday.
DUBLIN BOYS vs. COLEMAN
7 p.m. Tuesday at Cross Plains HS
Winner meets Wall or Colorado City
Dublin is back in the state playoffs as the fourth-place team from District 8-3A, and meets a familiar foe in the opening round.
The Lions have lost twice to 7-3A champ Coleman, 47-44 on the road on December 2 and 44-32 on a neutral court in the Breckenridge Lions Club Tournament on December 30.
“I hope what they say is true. I hope it’s hard to beat a good team three times,” said Dublin boys coach Richard Pringle, whose club is led on the perimeter by senior point guard Abel Aguilar and inside by senior post Travis Blazi.
The winner faces Wall or Colorado City in the area round.
LINGLEVILLE BOYS vs. BRYSON
7 p.m. Tuesday at Millsap HS
Winner meets Zephyr
Lingleville hopes the inclement weather is the only thing slowing another bi-district playoff victory.
Inclement weather that forced school closures throughout the Cross Timbers Region Monday also meant the postponement of Lingleville’s first-round date with Bryson, now being held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Millsap High School.
Lingleville’s recovery from the passing of standout junior Bart VanKranenburg on December 21 has inspired its fans and many others. The Cardinals split with arch-rival Huckabay in the regular season, and finished second in the tough 18-A that also includes Lipan.
The Cardinals have been to the last three regional tournaments, and if they can survive Bryson’s Cowboys, the third-place finisher in 17-A, they will face 19-A champ Zephyr in the area round.