HS Boys Basketball Playoffs: Steady Production Fuels the Cavaliers in Their Opening Round Win Over Dekaney

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 02/20/2024


KLEIN, TX -- The Bi-District round of the UIL State Playoffs got underway with the College Park Cavaliers (32-4) defeating the Dekaney Wildcats (19-19) behind stellar production from multiple pieces.

College Park demonstrated their control of the game by jumpstarting an efficient offense following the opening tip. A three-pointer from Aiden Buckmon catapulted the team in front of an aggressive Wildcat team that fought and scrapped to stay even.

A full-court press from Dekaney aimed to slow the Cavalier production on offense, but methodical ball movement broke the pressure before it could get set. Fast ball movement in the open floor helped to set up players for drives with the advantage, which typically resulted in the Cavs cashing in easy buckets.

Dekaney did not help their opening efforts with the offense, as the Wildcats struggled to find traction in the opening quarter. College Park defenders aggressively crashed the boards, boxing out the Wildcats inside.

No second-chance points and a defense that surrendered looks led to Dekaney slipping away from College Park on the scoreboard. The first quarter closed with the Cavs holding momentum and a 19-8 lead going into the second.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, College Park Head Coach Clifton McNeely sang praises for his team’s opening effort in their first playoff matchup.

“We were ready to play from the opening tip,” said McNeely. “We did a good job of controlling the tempo and playing at a pace that we wanted to.”

The second quarter saw practically the same game played as the first. The oppressive inside presence of Martez James snatched rebounds from Wildcats, and rapid ball movement got College Park ahead of opposing defenders.

Until around the midway point of the quarter, Dekaney started experiencing more success on defense. Selfless drawing charges from the Wildkats on defense handicapped College Park’s offensive production on multiple drives

“We missed some easy shots in the first quarter, and that continued in the second,” said McNeely. “I say we got popped in the mouth because we weren’t finishing in the paint like we needed to.”

Stops allowed the Wildcats to find their footing on offense. Stretching the floor with outside shooters forced defenders to overcommit around the three-point line. Overcommitment led to missed assignments and scorers working inside for easy shot attempts.

College Park’s double-digit lead from the first quarter shrank to three due to the changes, but a make from the consistent contributor James pushed the Cavs up by five going into the half.

Both teams returned to the floor to start the third quarter, with both squads hoping to blow the game open in their favor.

College Park’s most significant adjustment to open the second half was a change to a zone defense. The shift defensively eliminated the overcommitment on outside shooters and collapsed on ball handlers inside.

Dekaney was caught flat-footed from the change, and their offense fell back to struggling to produce points.

With the defense locking up the Wildcats, the Cavs were free to work out their offense in a fashion similar to the first quarter. Lightning-quick passes found gaps in the Dekaney defense and set up open shooters. Wide open shooters generated Cavalier points, and the potential tie Dekaney had worked hard for started slipping away.

“We settled down and went to work,” said McNeely on the third quarter effort. “All of the guys that have been doing things for us all year stepped up and played great basketball.”

The dominant effort from College Park sustained itself for the entire third quarter. Rigid defense and steady production on offense rewarded the Cavs with a 48-32 lead going into the final eight minutes.

College Park’s controlling grasp on the game carried to the fourth quarter, with Dekaney still searching for answers.

With their season on the line, the heightened sense of urgency caused mistakes to pile up on Dekaney’s side.

Wild passes attempted to generate quick offense for the Wildcats, but miscommunication and detrimental misses on open looks prevented the team from producing the points needed.

Dekaney’s additional shift toward pressuring the ball on defense allowed screens away from the ball to open up lethal shooters for looks that drove daggers into the potential Wildcat comeback.

A late timeout from Wildcat Head Coach Aundre Branch hoped to remedy the situation and get the team back into contention, but the ruthless attack from the Cavs ensured no comeback would be realized.

Substitutions came in for College Park with a minute remaining, providing minutes to the less experienced players. Their work helped to close out the matchup and secure the well-deserved win. The final buzzer sounded with the Cavaliers celebrating their 72-43 opening-round victory.

“They just got to have confidence and belief in themselves,” said McNeely in preparation for the next game. “There are a lot of teams down the road that have some big-time players, but they don’t have five big-time players, and I think that’s the key.”

The Cavs await their next opponents in the Area Round between the Klein Cain Hurricanes and the Langham Creek Lobos.

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