HS Boys Basketball: Willis Blazes Past Scrappy Conroe in Intense Rivalry Matchup

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 01/12/2024


WILLIS, TX -- The Willis Wildkats (16-9) defended their home floor against a hard-fought effort from the visiting Conroe Tigers (14-10), 66-54, to remain a top-three team in the district.

Willis took home a low-scoring victory on the road the last time these teams squared off. The affair would not repeat, as both squads looked to improve with the lessons they had learned earlier in the season.

From the opening tip, a break-neck pace dictated the flow of both teams before they had a chance to settle into any groove.

Transition baskets, full-court press, and disrupting passing lanes led to numerous turnovers and layups for Conroe and Willis.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Willis Head Coach Jeremy Clark spoke on his team’s preparedness for fast-paced situations.

“It’s something we expect, and we work on it every day,” said Clark. “We try to create a tempo that other teams can’t sustain.”

The team’s preparation paid off for the Wildkats in the first half, as they flashed their brilliant speed to force Conroe errors. Turnovers continually built up for the Tigers, who had to scrap and fight for each point they put up in the first quarter.

The dust finally settled after a blistering opening eight minutes, with the Wildkats leading by seven.

Conroe’s issues were slightly alleviated during the second quarter due to wise adjustments from the coaching staff led by Daryl Mason. The Tigers better handled the Willis press by focusing on short, dependable passes to get the ball into the frontcourt.

The Tigers’ ball movement forced Willis into defensive sets that the team was ill-equipped to handle due to only having eight players suited to play.

Fouls began to rack up against the Wildkats, forcing Coach Clark to utilize every last one of his athletes during long stretches of gameplay.

The substitutes handled the job for the most part, ending the first half with a comfortable 33-22 lead.

Most notable for Conroe in their issues during the first half was the lack of scoring from Gary Lewis. The 1,000-point career scorer struggled to post baskets due to a swarming defensive strategy from the Willis team.

“We just had to make him work running up and down the court,” said Clark. “But we knew he was going to get his, and I was not satisfied with how it went at times.”

After taking a break during halftime, Lewis exploded on the scoreboard. The talented Tiger shot 100% from the free-throw line during the second half to go along with numerous shots from the field, totaling over 20 points on the night.

Willis, on the other hand, struggled to get their offense back in gear after the break. Surefire shooters Jermaine Bishop Jr. and Chandler Bagley were missing the mark from the field more than they had in the first half.

Lewis and Conroe’s scoring, paired with Willis’ struggles from the field, kept the game within reach throughout the third quarter. The Wildkat lead came within two possessions of tying, but each time the lead was threatened, the Wildkats picked up the slack.

An unspoken trust was had between the Wildkats on the floor and the coaching staff that if the shots kept flying, they would fall eventually.

“We all trust each other whether we’re missing or not,” said standout Jermaine Bishop Jr. “It’s a brotherhood that we have where we can trust each other when we’re on or off.”

The offense began to click again as the fourth quarter got underway for Willis. Bishop Jr. and Bagley led the team, with both players breaking over 15 points on the night.

The late efforts from Willis kept pushing the lead farther away from the encroaching Tigers, leading to desperate attempts at scoring from Conroe.

More touches for Lewis inside gave a handful of points, but continual wear from the Wildkat full-court press pushed Willis to the finish line.

A late turnover and some exhilarating scores from Willis ended the night with a 66-54 victory.

The win keeps Willis situated as the third-place team in the district, but the goals for the Wildkats remain the same. Reach the top spot.

“We have goals to finish as a top-two team and win the district title,” said Clark. “We have to keep locking in when every night is going to feel like a playoff environment.”

Willis’ win provides fuel for the team as they prepare for a trip to Grand Oaks to face the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Conroe will lick its wounds and get prepared to host The Woodlands Highlanders.

Comments •
Log In to Comment