The Cooldown- Week 23 (Spring 2023)
It’s officially March and it’s time for the madness to commence. Before we get to the traditional college version of March Madness, there are champions to be crowned in the state of Texas. The women are headed down to San Antonio for the 2023 UIL State Tournament. The men wrapped up the regional quarterfinals and have two games this weekend to figure out which teams advance to San Antonio. Let’s recap the men’s regional quarterfinals and preview the women’s State Tournament.
Hebron eliminates Plano
If any team has defined March Madness so far this postseason, it’s been the Hebron Hawks. A few weeks ago, Hebron played a seeding game against Lewisville to determine which team got the No. 3 seed in District 6-6A, and which had to face District 5-6A champion Allen in the bi-district round. Hebron lost that game to Lewisville and seemingly got the tougher path of the two teams. Instead, it’s Hebron that has advanced to the regional semifinal while Lewisville fell to Arlington Martin in the area round.
Hebron eliminated the district champion from its own district to advance to the regional semifinal. The Hawks beat Hebron 49-38 after holding Plano to just seven points in the first half. A 14-4 second quarter advantage put distance between the Hawks and the Wildcats as Hebron took a 22-7 lead to halftime and held on for a double-digit win. The win gives Hebron two wins over teams ranked in the top 10 in the state so far in the playoffs.
Cameron Mennsfield led the way for Hebron with 16 points and Jaden Clemons added 12 points for the Hawks. Isaiah Dixon scored eight points while Reed Pope chipped in five points. Atreya Vaidya paced Plano with 11 points. Justin Buenaventura scored nine points and Justin McBride chipped in eight points in the loss.
Hebron’s magical playoff run continues on Friday night against the Byron Nelson Bobcats. Like Hebron, Byron Nelson didn’t win its district but is still dancing even after District 4-6A champion Keller has been eliminated. Even though there hasn’t been a playoff game played in March yet, there has been plenty of madness across the state of Texas.
North Crowley eliminates Keller
North Crowley bounced Keller from the playoffs with an 80-78 win over the Indians. The Wildcats jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the game before Keller rallied. The Indians cut the North Crowley lead to 16-12 at the end of the first quarter. An even second quarter allowed North Crowley to take a four-point lead to the break with the score at 35-31. Keller cut that lead to one-point after the third quarter and took its largest lead of the game at 57-53 halfway through the final frame.
A layup from KD Davis with under 10 seconds remaining forced overtime and the Wildcats would go on to win a thriller and advance to the regional semifinal. Davis finished with 25 points for North Crowley and Kamoni Sieber added 23 points to give the Wildcats a powerful one-two scoring punch. Brooks Bahr was the star of the night for Keller, scoring 41 points in the loss. Parker Hannah added 15 points and fouled out just before the end of regulation.
North Crowley will get No. 1 Lake Highlands in the regional semifinal. Those two will meet in the same building North Crowley eliminated Keller in, Wilkerson- Greines Arena. Lake Highlands eliminated Arlington Martin 48-45 in the regional quarterfinal to advance.
DeSoto eliminates Killeen Harker Heights
DeSoto advanced to the regional semifinal by eliminating Killeen Harker Heights 66-62. This one was close throughout as DeSoto held a two-point advantage after the first quarter and was tied 24-24 at halftime. A big third quarter for DeSoto was too much for Harker Heights to overcome in the fourth quarter. DeSoto outscored Harker Heights 22-14 in the third before holding on for the four-point win in the fourth quarter.
Jaxson Davis led the way for DeSoto with 21 points and Arrington Cooper chipped in 16 points. Russell Foreman scored 10 points to give the Eagles three players in double-figures. Nakia Smith added eight points and Ahmir Wall scored six points in the win.
DeSoto advances to face Cypress Falls in the regional semifinal. Cypress Falls eliminated Klein Collins 64-38 to advance to the regional semifinal. Cypress Falls has won all three of its playoff games by at least 20 points. DeSoto will need big games from Davis, Cooper and Foreman to advance to the regional final against the winner of Mansfield Legacy and Klein Oak.
Games to Watch
Coppell vs San Antonio Clark
Coppell is making its first appearance at the State Tournament and hopes to make it a memorable one. The Cowgirls’ run to San Antonio has been impressive, and most of the games have come down to the last few possessions. Having a player as talented as Jules LaMendola will help a team win those final possessions. LaMendola is averaging nearly 20 points a night in the playoffs and will need to continue that scoring streak against San Antonio Clark. LaMendola will need help from Ella Spiller, who has been fantastic in the playoffs, and Allyssa Potter, if Coppell is going to advance. Coppell takes on a Clark Cougars squad making its second straight appearance at the State Tournament on Friday night at 7:00.
DeSoto vs Pearland
DeSoto is looking for a three-peat after winning the State Tournament in 2021 and 2022. The Lady Eagles could make it an all-DFW state title game if Coppell can also advance past San Antonio Clark. Unlike Coppell, DeSoto has blown through the competition in the playoffs with the smallest margin of victory coming in a 65-49 win over Mansfield Lake Ridge. Despite winning the last two titles, DeSoto doesn’t have a lot of experience from those teams as Nissa Muhammad is the only player who also played in the title game last year. DeSoto will lead on Muhammad and Ma’Riya Vincent to help navigate a talented group of freshmen including KP Pruitt, Amari Byles, Amayah Garcia and Rieyan DeSouze through their first State Tournament. Pearland hasn’t made it to the State Tournament since 1980 but has blown through the playoffs with the exception of a close win over Clear Brook 53-46. DeSoto’s matchup with Pearland is slated for 8:30 on Friday night, or directly following Coppell’s matchup with San Antonio Clark.
5A State Semifinals
Frisco Liberty vs San Antonio Wagner
Frisco Liberty has been a mainstay in San Antonio. The Lady Redhawks are making their fifth appearance in the State Tournament since 2016. Frisco Liberty only won it all in one of its previous four trips to San Antonio. If Frisco Liberty is to make it two state titles in five years, it will need a big performance from its star-studded backcourt of Keyera Roseby and Jacy Abii. Those two combine for nearly 28 points-per-game. San Antonio Wagner is another team that has been to the State Tournament a handful of times but hasn’t had much success. Wagner made the State Tournament four times between 2008-2015 but never won a state title. Frisco Liberty’s matchup with San Antonio Wagner is slated for Thursday night at 7:00. All State Championship Games will take place on Saturday.
Player of the Week
My Player of the Week is Byron Nelson’s Finley Bizjack! The Butler signee scored 24 points in Byron Nelson’s 56-54 win over Frenship in the regional quarterfinal! Bizjack shot 12-15 at the free throw line in the final frame to ice the game and send the Bobcats to the regional semifinal! Byron Nelson will need Bizjack to have another big scoring night and get help from Conner Lindsay and Jacob MacDonald in order to beat Hebron and advance to the regional final.