Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Season of battles in rugged district leaves 7-5A qualifiers playoff-ready
DeSoto boys basketball coach Chris Dyer leaned back in a chair in his office and shook his head. A typical game in 7-5A, a district so tough that coaches compare it to college football in the Southeastern Conference, had worn him out again.
“SEC?” he said with a hoarse voice. “I don’t think people know how good this district is.”
Playoff teams from 7-5A — DeSoto, Duncanville, South Grand Prairie and Cedar Hill — will get a chance to prove it in the coming weeks. Unfortunately for teams such as Grand Prairie and Mansfield Timberview, which finished fifth and sixth in the district, the season is over.
And teams they would beat are preparing for the playoffs.
“The fifth-place team in our district could be the first- or second-place team in another district,” Duncanville coach Kenny Boren said. “That’s just how brutal our district is.”
Grand Prairie, which finished 7-7 in district, beat Duncanville twice and lost to Cedar Hill by one point and to South Grand Prairie by five. Timberview struggled to 4-10 in district, but in nondistrict play it beat the top two teams in 4-5A: Keller (22-5) and Keller Fossil Ridge (21-8).
Few districts have ever been as deep as 7-5A was this year.
“You’ve got to be playing at your highest level every night because there’s just such a small margin for error,” Timberview coach Duane Gregory said. “Against every team.”
“A war every single night,” is how Boren described it.
The combatants were talented players such as DeSoto forward Terry Maston (a Baylor signee), Duncanville forward Omar Sherman (Miami), South Grand Prairie senior forward Rick Curry, and Cedar Hill junior point guard Kealon Clayborne. Most games were physical, low-scoring, grind-it-out battles. DeSoto, SGP and Duncanville each allowed less than 50y points per game.
“It’s just a dogfight,” South Grand Prairie coach Brandon Bennett said.
The survivors are familiar with what comes next. In the last five seasons, DeSoto has been a state champion and South Grand Prairie and Cedar Hill have been finalists. Duncanville finished 39-0 and won the 5A title in 2007.
Their regular-season battles undoubtedly helped them prepare for playoff runs in those seasons.
“It’s a great experience to go through for a team,” Bennett said. “It can make you a little tired, but it makes you better.”
District champion DeSoto (26-3) is No. 2 in the 5A state rankings, and South Grand Prairie (22-6) is No. 5. But SGP is the district’s third seed after losing twice to Duncanville (18-11), which shows the parity in 7-5A. Cedar Hill (18-10) is the fourth seed and will face 8-5A champion Killeen Harker Heights (25-4) in the first round of the playoffs.
A fourth seed against a district champ is often a mismatch, and Harker Heights is No. 11 in the state rankings. But Cedar Hill hasn’t lost in the first round in the last five years, and after battling through 7-5A, the Longhorns should be ready for anything.
All the 7-5A playoff teams can say that.
“If you can stay healthy through the battles of district, you really have an edge in the playoffs,” Boren said. “I don’t know how you could possibly be more battle-tested.”
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