Trying to win its first TAPPS boys basketball state championship in 11 years, St. Pius X will take on Dallas Parish Episcopal 6 p.m. Thursday night at Waco University High School in a 6A state semifinal.
Should the Panthers, who have won nine straight games, get past Parish Episcopal, they will come back 8 p.m. Friday for the state championship against the winner of Tomball Concordia Lutheran and Plano Prestonwood.
“We have played well, but I still think we have two good games left in us,” head coach Brandon Scott said. “But getting to the state tournament is something we’ve talked about and it was definitely one of our goals. I keep preaching to the kids that now, we just need to go out, trust the process that got us here, stay together as a team and play well.”
The Panthers reached the state semifinals by winning a pair of playoff games last week, first whipping Brownsville St. Joseph, 63-44, in the Area round before coming back Friday night in the Regional to take down number-one seed Bishop Lynch in a 48-44 nailbiter-to-the-elbows that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer sounded.
In the win over Lynch, the team from Dallas held a 42-39 lead with four minutes to play, but the Panthers closed with a 9-2 run to get the victory and advance to this week’s Final Four.
“I have a lot of respect for both of those teams and both of those games were tough like we knew they would be because it’s the playoffs,” said Scott. “We played excellent defense in both of those games. We tell the kids to play as fast as they can the first two or three minutes to get all the jitters out of the way and I thought we definitely did that against St. Joseph’s. But these are the playoffs, so the games only get tougher and we expect our toughest games of the season this week, starting Thursday.”
Senior 6-foot-6 postman Markeith Williams is the team’s big man. Senior Jacob Jefferson, junior Chad Graham, and junior Jarvis Johnson operate their three-guard system and junior small forward Stanley Asiegbu rounds out the starting five. Small forward Terrell Jenkins along with guards Sydney Shipp and Kristopher Burton are the first three subs off the bench as the Panthers usually employ an eight-man rotation.
With a guard-heavy lineup, Coach Scott said they like to get up-and-down the floor.
“We push the tempo,” he said. “We want to play fast. We’ve got athletic kids and so we want to play fast. But we want to control the tempo.
We pick teams up a lot in man-to-man (defense), but we do play some zone. But we’ve got the players to get up and down the floor fast and that can control tempo, whether we’re on the run or running our half-court offense, so we want to play fast, but we also want to control the tempo.”
The Panthers have been blessed with balanced scoring as well with at least three players in double digits in most of their games this season.
“We do spread the scoring around,” Scott said. “We’ve got guys that believe in each other and we share the ball like we should. I think teams that get too this point are teams that are unselfish and share ball and we’ve a great job with that this year.”
Scott said he believes his team is prepared for this moment.
“We’ve played a tough schedule to help us get ready for this,” he said. “We’ve played (6A public schools) Dekaney, Lamar, Bellaire, and some other big schools. We’ve played The Village School twice. We’ve got some strong teams in our district. The kids have worked hard.
We’ve played well in two playoff games so far. We’ve won nine straight games. I think we’re confident and we’re excited about the opportunity we have here.”