Written by Matt Wixon
Dallas-area boys high school basketball playoff preview: DeSoto, Hebron in 5A; Seguin, Carter in 4A the area's teams to beat
The boys UIL basketball playoffs begin Monday, and by Tuesday night, all 640 playoff teams from across the state will have started battling for six titles. Many of the top contenders are the same from last season, but this year’s playoffs feel different from last season.
After losing the core of the team that won the last two Class 5A titles, two-time defending champion Flower Mound Marcus didn’t make the playoffs. And although two-time defending 4A champion Kimball is still a contender, it finished second in its district to Carter. The brackets seem wide open as the march to the state tournament begins.
Here’s a look at some of the players and teams that hope to make it to the tourney, which is March 7-9 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
Best in class
DeSoto (31-2): Led by Duke signee Matt Jones, DeSoto has been No. 1 in the state rankings most of the season. The Eagles won 5A state titles in 2003 and ’09.
Hebron (32-2): Won its District 5-5A games by an average of 20 points and hasn’t lost since November.
Arlington Seguin (29-4): Has wins over Kimball, Lincoln and 5A contender Plano East.
Carter (31-4): Star senior class has helped team rise to No. 2 in the 4A state rankings.
Madison (25-4): State champ in ’09 and runner-up in 2010 lost in the second round the last two years.
Kennedale (25-2): State champ in ’08 averaged more than 90 points per game as it dominated District 6-3A.
Watch out for
South Grand Prairie: Played in the state’s toughest district, 7-5A, and has one win (and two losses) against DeSoto. Last year, South Grand Prairie lost by one point to eventual champion Flower Mound Marcus in the regional final. Point guard Mark Howell and shooting guard Ben Emelogu are a terrific combo.
Plano East: Coach Jeff Clarkson, who guided Garland Naaman Forest to the state semifinals last year, took over at his alma mater this season. Plano East missed the playoffs the last three years, but its defense can be stout and Pat Birt (10.8 points per game), Marcus Mathieu (9.8) and Jarvis Pugh (9.7) lead a balanced offense.
Richardson Berkner: It seems like star point guard Kendal Yancy-Harris and forward Soma Edo have been at Berkner forever, and for good reason. The four-year varsity players get one final playoff shot this season. Edo leads the team in scoring (15.9) and rebounding (10.7), and Yancy-Harris averages 12 points and eight assists.
Lincoln: Twin brothers Erick Neal and Derrick Neal form a backcourt that helped Lincoln win the District 12-4A title and rise to No. 3 in the 4A state rankings. Erick averages 14.5 points and 5.6 assists per game, and Derrick averages 12.7 points and 4.7 assists. Lincoln last won a state title in 2002, when it finished 40-0 with Chris Bosh at center.
Kimball: The defending 4A champs lost to Carter three times this season, but the Knights didn’t win their district last year, either. They could get on another roll.
Jalen Jones, Cedar Hill: The forward poured in 29 points in the regular-season finale to push his season average to 21.6 points per game, and he also averages 6.8 rebounds.
Ridge Shipley, Hebron: The guard has helped Hebron to its most regular-season wins ever with 18.4 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Alex Cooper, Mesquite: The star quarterback in the fall is the team’s lead guard on the court, averaging 17.8 points and 4.3 assists.
Jeremy Combs, Carter: The forward has helped Carter’s basketball resurgence with averages of 23.2 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Keith Frazier, Kimball: The star guard, who averages 22.3 points and 7.8 rebounds, is smooth around the hoop and can get red-hot from 3-point range.
Zach Coleman, Woodrow Wilson: The forward averaged 18.3 points and 14.4 rebounds to help his team finish second to Lincoln in 12-4A.
Stephen Spurlock, Carrollton Newman Smith: The forward led Newman Smith to the top of 10-4A with 16.5 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Devante’ Pullum, Little Elm: The guard, another quarterback in the fall, helped Little Elm to the 9-4A title with averages of 17.7 points and 7.7 assists.
Charles Beauregard, Garland Lakeview: The forward averages 17.7 points and 6.2 rebounds for the team that earned a share of the 11-5A title with Rowlett.
Six of the top 10 teams in the 5A state rankings are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including No. 1 DeSoto, No. 2 Hebron and No. 3 Plano East. Five of the top 10 in 4A are local, led by Carter, Lincoln and Arlington Seguin at 2-3-4.
That quality depth is nothing new for local teams. The last time that a Dallas-Fort Worth team didn’t appear in either the 4A or 5A title game was in 2001. In the last seven seasons, local teams have claimed 11 of the 14 titles in the state’s two largest classes.
The UIL 4A and 5A champions in the last seven years:
S. Oak Cliff
S. Oak Cliff
* South Oak Cliff forfeited title, which was awarded to Dunbar
DeSoto and Hebron are 1-2 in the state 5A rankings, but at least one of those teams won’t make it to the regional tournament. DeSoto, the 7-5A champion, and 5-5A champ Hebron would play in the third round. DeSoto beat Hebron, 82-59, in November.
Plano East and Rowlett are state-ranked in 5A and could meet in the second round. Plano East is the 10-5A champ and Rowlett, co-champ with Garland Lakeview in 11-5A, lost a coin flip and became the district’s second seed in the playoffs. Rowlett beat Plano East, 60-54, in December.
Two-time defending champion Kimball and 12-4A top seed Lincoln, who have waged some memorable playoff battles in recent years, could meet in the third round. They didn’t play in the regular season.
Rowlett’s big three
After not making the playoffs in 2011, Rowlett advanced to the second round last year as Jeffrey Carroll, Nathan Hawkins and Austin Luke emerged as stars. Now the three friends, who have played together since they were in the third grade, have one more chance to get Rowlett to the state tournament.
Carroll, a 6-5 small forward who signed with Oklahoma State, averages a team-high 22.3 points and also grabs 6.7 rebounds per game. Hawkins, a 6-5 shooting guard who signed with Nebraska, averages 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. Luke, a 6-3 point guard who signed with Belmont, is an excellent distributor (6.3 assists per game) and averages nearly two made 3-pointers per contest.
If the UIL alignments were the same as last season, Madison and Kennedale might be the favorites to win the 3A title. Madison has beaten several 4A and 5A teams that made the playoffs, and Kennedale’s smallest margin of victory in 6-3A was 28 points.
But in the new UIL realignment, Houston Yates dropped to 3A. Yates won 4A titles in 2009 and ’10 and was the runner-up to Kimball last season. Yates is No. 1 in the state 3A rankings, followed by Madison and Kennedale.
Triple A in 1A
Triple A Academy in Dallas could become the first charter school to win a boys state title in a team sport. Triple A is certainly the favorite in the 1A Division I bracket, where it won’t find teams that match its talent.
Triple A has several players who are college prospects, led by sophomore guard King McClure, who is one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2015. Triple A’s average margin of victory in its 10 district games was 56.5 points.
Triple A will be able to compete in 1A again next season, but starting in 2014, it will move up to 3A because of a new UIL rule that requires charter schools to be in the lowest class of the school district in which it’s located.