SHS Gymnasium – Seminole, TX
The North Crowley Men’s Basketball Program entered the post-season as one of the hottest basketball teams in the state this week. They completed their regular season with a 32-2 overall record, a perfect 16-0 District 4-6A Championship record and were riding a 13 game win streak as they entered the playoffs. The Panthers had been waiting for nearly a week to figure out who their first round match-up would be, as District 3-6A had three teams finish in a tie for their 4th and final playoff spot. On Friday night, Feb. 15th the final “play in” games were completed across the state, the UIL Tournament Bracket was officially set and the Panthers finally knew who their first round opponent would be; the San Angelo Central Bobcats.
The Bobcats came into the post-season on a bit of a winning streak of their own, as they had victories over the Abilene Eagles & the Richland Rebels in their “play in” tournament to extend their season and had recorded 18 victories on the year. San Angelo, also came into the contest with a very experienced team that saw 10 seniors on their roster. The Bobcats were riding the hot hand of seniors Devereaux Minix, Michael Bonner & Tristan Lopez, who had all had big weekends to help their team advance to the post-season. North Crowley entered the game experienced (9 seniors of their own), rested (they had been off for the past 6 days) and well prepared for their opening round foe as well. The Panthers, opened up the first quarter shooting the ball well as their inside/outside tandem of Isaiah’s (Crawford/Wyatt) were scoring against the Bobcat zone almost at will. The Panthers defense had came to play as well and only allowed 6 first quarter points to the high scoring Bobcat offense as NC took an overwhelming 23-6 lead at the end of the first frame. The second quarter was much of the same as the Panthers proved to be too much for SA Central on both ends of the floor as North Crowley outscored them 20-11 in the second quarter to post a 43-17 lead at the intermission. The Bobcats came out in the third quarter and made one last desperate attempt to climb back into the game as they pressed the Panthers 94′ feet the entire quarter, they gambled on passes & launched an arsenal of long range threes, with many finding their mark. The Bobcats won the quarter 16-12, but were only able to marginally cut into the North Crowley lead, as the Panthers still led 55-33 going into the final quarter of play. San Angelo had expended way too much energy trying to claw their way back into the game and after cutting the Panther lead all the way down to 17, the Bobcats simply ran out of gas. The Panthers scored 33 points in the final frame to beat San Angelo Central 88-57 in the Bi-District round of the UIL’s 6A State Playoffs. The Panthers were led in scoring by Senior Guard Isaiah Wyatt with 23 points. Wyatt was 1 of three Panthers to record 5 assists for the game as well. Senior Guard/Forward Isaiah Crawford scored 22 points for the game and led the Panthers in rebounding with 15 and blocked shots with 5. Senior Forwards, Jay Gates & Chris Jordan, had big rebounding games as well with 10 & 8 respectively. Sr. Guard, Evan Williams with 12 points and Jr. Guard, Tre Ballard with 10 points, both joined the Isaiah’s as double figure scorers for the Panthers. The win moved the Panthers overall record to 33-3 on the season and moved them on to the Area round of the playoffs where they would face the El Paso Coronado Thunderbirds.
The Area Round game, vs El Paso Coronado was scheduled for Friday, February, 22nd in Seminole, TX and the turnaround came very quickly for the Panthers. The Thunderbirds, 21-11 (8-2) were the #2 seed out of the El Paso District, Dist. 1-6A, with their only 2 district losses coming at the hands of 20th ranked El Paso Americas. Coronado was also coming off a 5 point Bi-District playoff win over an extremely athletic Midland Bulldogs team on Tuesday at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. The game saw Sr. guard, Ayaan Sohail, score 35 points in the win for the Thunderbirds, including a perfect 18-18 from the line. The Panthers, having played on Monday, again came in with an extra day of rest and preparation for the talented Thunderbird team. North Crowley, as they have done for the majority of the season, had a very focused defensive effort in the first quarter as they held the Thunderbirds to an anemic 3 points and held a 16-3 lead after 8 minutes of play. Coronado battled back in the 2nd quarter with a few transition baskets and a banked in three pointer by Sohail to cut the Panther lead to 11, 28-17 at the half. North Crowley took the intermission to “reset” their defense and adjust to the T-Birds 2nd quarter adjustments. The Panther defense held Coronado to just 2 field goals, 4 points, for the third quarter as they stretched their lead to 17, 38-21. The 1 teams battled back and fourth for the final 8 minutes, but the Panther lead, along with the outcome of the game, was never in jeopardy. North Crowley celebrated their Area Championship as the clock expired with a 47-29 victory. North Crowley was again led in scoring by the Senior duo of Isaiah’s as Crawford scored 15 points for the game & Wyatt recorded 13. Ballard & Jordan finished the game with 7 and 6 respectively. Crawford was again the team leader in rebounds with 10 and blocks with 5… he also led the Panthers in assists with 4. Gates and Jordan again pitched in on the glass as the Panthers dominated the Thunderbirds on the glass. Gates finished the game with 9 & Jordan finished the game with 7 and a game high 4 steals. With all of the statistical performances aside, the biggest performance of the night was Wyatt’s defensive performance on Sohail. The senior guard for the Panthers completely locked up and frustrated the T-Birds’ leading scorer all night. Sohail finished with 16 points for the night (4 under his average) but 3 of the points came on a banked in three pointer, 3 more when Wyatt was on the bench for a quick breather and 4 came in mop up time after Wyatt had been subbed out of the game. The Panthers again celebrated their victory briefly, but appeared to have a bigger goal in mind than just an Area Championship on a Friday night in a small town in west Texas. The win moved the Panthers overall record to 34-3 on the season and earned them a birth to play the District 3-6A Champions from Euless ISD, the Trinity Trojans 21-10 (11-1), in the 6A Region 1, Regional Quarterfinals round of the UIL State Playoffs.
The 3rd ranked Panthers will return to the D/FW Area to play Euless Trinity on Tuesday night, February 26th at FWISD’s Wilkerson Greines Activity Center as part of a Region 1 Playoff double-header. The opening game between #1 Duncanville & #12 DeSoto is scheduled for a 6:30pm tip with North Crowley & Trinity game tipping approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of the 1st game. Ticket prices for the double-header have been set at $4.00 for students & $6.00 for adults. The winners of these 2 quarterfinals match-ups will play each other in the Region 1, Regional Semifinals on Friday, March 1st at Wilkerson Greines. You can follow North Crowley Basketball on Twitter @ncbasketball, Instagram nc_panther_basketball or Facebook North Crowley Basketball – The Official Fan Page for all of the details on purchasing your tickets on-line as they are announced.