HS Boys Basketball: Willis’ Final Game of the Season Ends in a Monumental Victory

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 02/10/2024


WILLIS, TX -- The Willis WIldkats (21-11) knocked off the Grand Oaks Grizzlies (20-16) in a heated 59-52 battle for the district’s second seed ahead of the playoffs

The stakes were high before the opening tip, with the Wildkats celebrating their senior class ahead of the start. Players A.J. Dorsey and Bryce Bass were applauded for their contributions to the team thus far, but their game would elevate against the Grizzlies.

Strong drives to the basket and a blistering pace got Willis off to the flying start that has characterized the team. The Grizzlies were forced into a perpetual game of catchup in an opening quarter that saw a limited response from Grand Oaks.

Grand Oaks’ sluggish start allowed Willis to grab a lead and extend it early, and they did so. Six different Wildkats contributed points in the first quarter, with Bass leading the pack.

His and his teammates’ efforts combined to give the Wildkats a 23-9 first-quarter lead, with confidence that the team can get the job done against any team.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Bass broke down the aspects of the team that work behind the scenes to make the team successful on the floor.

“It comes down to the way we practice,” said Bass. “We really get into it and play hard, and that teaches us to never give up through adversity.”

The adversity against the Wildkats manifested in the second quarter. A resounding response from Grand Oaks rocketed the team back into contention.

Passes into the interior of the paint set up easy opportunities for the Grizzlies to get makes near the basket. The height advantage for Grand Oaks also paid dividends, with second-chance opportunities and points becoming more prevalent.

In contrast to their first-quarter production, the shooters fell silent for Willis during the second. Just two Wildkats managed to add points during the dismal shooting performance. Rushed shots and turnovers kept providing opportunities for the Grizzlies to keep Willis in check while inching closer on the scoreboard.

The gradual momentum ended with the first half. Grand Oaks battled from a 14-point deficit to bring the game within four going into the locker rooms.

In another interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Willis Head Coach Jeremy Clark spoke about how his team’s composure during the rough moments was emphasized during the half.

“We knew Grand Oaks can really shoot, so you’re not going to keep them down,” said Clark. “The most important thing was to stay calm and understand that it’s a game of runs, and we just have to keep fighting.”

Willis’ composure reignited their dormant offense to start the second half. A return to inside shots saw Bass and S.J. Young feast on inside looks for points. Refocusing the offense also allowed the ball-handlers to take their time around the arch, eating precious seconds off the clock for Grand Oaks.

The Grizzlies attempted to satiate the problem by pushing the pace on their possessions, but the ramped-up speed led to turnovers instead of building a comeback. The fast shots took away the inside opportunities that brought the team within single digits of tying and pushed the team farther away from the goal.

A reenergized home crowd aided Willis’ runs in the third quarter by punctuating every make with emphatic cheers. Layups, and-ones, and put-backs all got the Wildkat fans on their feet as their team extended the lead to its widest gaps.

From the four-point lead at the half, Willis extended it to a 47-36 lead that gave the team enough of a cushion to steady the game and secure the victory.

Momentum securing baskets in transition from Irvin Cortes kept the Wildkats one step ahead of Grand Oaks down the stretch despite a series of three-pointers from the Grizzlies.

In a last-ditch attempt to swing the game, Grand Oaks began intentionally fouling the Wildkats to limit their possessions to free throws. But in the clutch, Bass stepped above the pressure and nailed his shots with ruthless efficiency. Willis’ top scorer went 100% from the line and tallied 23 points on the day.

“Nothing fazes us because we are ready for anything,” said Clark. “Bryce [Bass] having 23 points is a testament to what their leadership has been all year.”

Grand Oaks would hit some shots before the game closed, but the result of a 59-52 win for Willis clinches the district’s second-best record on the season. The Wildkat victory also signifies the team’s first appearance in the postseason as a 6A program and Coach Clark’s first time as a head coach.

“Last year in the preseason, we sat down and wrote our goal down to be one of the top teams in the district, and we completed that today,” said Clark. “None of our kits have been there, and I haven’t been there as a head coach, so we’re going to enjoy the moment.”

Willis’ achievement ends their regular season on a high note, while Grand Oaks will end theirs on the road against the Conroe Tigers on Wednesday.

Comments •
Log In to Comment