By BRAD KEITH
(February, 14, 2018) — After a virtual cakewalk through 6-3A, back-to-back district champ Dublin will have nothing of the sort in the early rounds of Region I-3A boys basketball playoffs.
Lion head coach Will Parker and his fast-paced 94-feet for 32-minutes style has the Dublin program on a winning trajectory like never before. But he understands the road ahead full of obstacles the likes of which his team has rarely seen.
With Colorado City and then likely Brock ahead in the opening two rounds, Parker found quite the formidable prep opponent in Conference 2A athletic super force Muenster, not only the reigning 2A boys basketball champ, but also winner of the most recent 2A baseball and Division II football titles.
“They have a good 6-5 kid inside and they are opposite of us,” Parker said of Muenster. “They want to play man lock, you down and slow down the game, so it will give us the chance to play against someone good and see how they try to stop us from getting up and down the floor.”
Dublin was pushed in the fourth quarter of a district game just once, when the Lions were ahead by five last Friday at Comanche. They won 73-63 despite Comanche slowing star Rayce Jackson. He was 0-6 from the arc and scored just 10 points. But it isn’t the first time Jackson has been off but Dublin has still won. Blake Porter stepped in as the star against Comanche, going 10-16 from the floor and scoring 26 points, and with Jakob Seals scoring 20 in the first half in a blowout of Coleman Tuesday, Jackson hardly saw the ball.
“We have a lot of guys who can hurt teams a number of ways, so when Rayce has been off we may not even be sure who is going to step up, but it’s always been somebody,” Parker said.
Jackson has three triple-doubles this season and was two assists shy of one of those becoming a quadruple-double.
Colorado City, the fourth-place team from District 5-3A, comes out of a tough district and Parker says the Wolves have the talent to pull off a playoff upset. They would likely have been the toughest challenger to the Lions if they were in 6-3A.
The bi-district playoff bracket has Dublin meeting Colorado City at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at McMurry University in Abilene. The winner moves on to the area round and will most likely face longtime state powerhouse Brock. The Eagles and Peaster shared a district title, and Brock was allowed to select its seed after winning a coin toss. Peaster eliminated Dublin in the second round last season.
“I don’t know how Colorado City is a fourth-place team, and I don’t know any way around Brock,” said Parker. “It’s just a tough region we’re in with a lot of good teams.”
Many believe Dublin has staked its spot among those good teams, and there is evidence to back it up, at least on a short-term scale.
The Lions are on a 15-game winning streak with only two of those games determined by single digits. They have won 25 games in back-go-back seasons.
But the Lions aren’t looking for a fold up chair to sit in as they picnic briefly with the powerhouse programs of Region I, such as Brock and Peaster, which eliminated them last season. Dublin would like to settle in to a nice cushioned chair near the head of the dining room table and stay a while.
Having Rayce Jackson eased the transition with Brady Moore having moved on to East Texas Baptist, and next year Parker must hope the stables housing junior varsity and ninth grade teams with combined records for 56-4 the past two seasons can combine to make up for production lost once Jackson and others graduate. Angel Ramirez, a sophomore, will be a good place to start.
Besides longevity, having a seat among those powers requires you sometimes beat them, creating riv
The last time the Lions reached a regional tournament, past Tarleton State center Jakob Damstra was a Dublin senior in 2012. That was their first sweet 16 club since 1995 and neither won their regional semifinal.
Dublin can’t look that far ahead. Colorado City is demanding enough the Lions best not get caught even peeking around the corner at Brock.
They will see all those teams they want, up close and persona. All it takes is continuing to win.
Something, over the past two seasons, at least, the Lions have done more frequently than ever before.
Something they hope to continue in the post season, in the games teams and programs are ultimately judged by.