Zack Duncan may have politely declined to take credit for his role in Guyer’s District 5-4A basketball opener against Azle on Tuesday night, but every time the Wildcats needed a big play, the 6-foot-5 junior delivered.
Duncan scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-point baskets, and finished with 28 points, leading the Wildcats to a 78-67 home victory over the Hornets. Duncan’s final 3-pointer and a free throw, all in the final minute, helped the Wildcats turn back an Azle rally in which the Hornets erased a 16-point deficit.
“We work as a team,” said Duncan, who hit six 3-pointers on the night. “We all back each other up. It wasn’t just me. Everyone contributed and made big plays. I just had the hot hand and I was getting good looks.”
Duncan’s output, along with 15 points from Mitchell Willard and 11 from Miles Crawford, have the Wildcats at 10-3 overall and, more importantly, 1-0 in district.
“We’re very happy to start out district with a win,” said Guyer head coach Grant Long. “This going to be a tough district race and we’ve got a big game at Denton on Friday. (Azle) kept coming at us and attacking. They got us into foul trouble in the second half and were able to get back into the game.
“There is a saying in our locker room that says, ‘Do What We Do.’ No matter what, we’re going to keep doing what we do and that kept us focused tonight. If anything, we need to work on our defensive intensity.”
Guyer used a 15-0 run early in the second quarter to open a 33-17. Azle (7-4, 0-1 district) missed its first seven field-goal attempts of the second quarter and turned the ball over four times to help the Guyer run.
But the Hornets would not go away, especially behind the gutsy play of Tristin Wilbanks, who finished with 17 points. He scored nine straight points to help the Hornets close the gap to 10 by halftime. He scored 10 points in the third quarter as Azle took advantage of foul trouble against Guyer and slowly cut away at the Wildcats’ lead.
Azle was within seven going into the final period and two quick buckets to start the fourth quarter had the Hornets within three. Then Duncan and Alex Partridge took over. Duncan scored on a layup, Partridge hit a 3-pointer, Duncan added a 3-pointer, and Partridge’s 5-foot bank shot pushed Guyer’s lead back to 69-57 with 4:37 left.
Azle made one last push. The Hornets closed to 69-63 before Duncan fired another 3-point jumper. Slayton Vaughan, who led Azle with 20 points, hit back-to-back field goals and Azle was within five, 72-67, with 2:10 to go.
But Guyer would control the tempo the rest of the way. Crawford hit an 8-foot baseline jumper, and Duncan closed the scoring with his sixth 3-pointer and a free throw.
“That second quarter really hurt us,” said Azle head coach Eddy Prather. “This is such a game of streaks. (Guyer) had it tonight. We came in with six straight wins, but we hurt ourselves by falling behind. We’ve been playing such good ball. We’ll get it back.”
Guyer 78, Azle 67
Azle (7-4, 0-1) — Cooper Rush 3, Colton Bagwell 5, Trevor McDaniel 11, Zac Roberson 9, Slayton Vaughan 20, Rico Martinez 2, Tristen Wilbanks 17.
Guyer (10-3, 1-0) — Sean Choate 8, Shelton Childress 2, Miles Crawford 11, Alex Partridge 7, Mitchell Willard 15, Zack Duncan 28, Justin Griffin 4, Xavier Brown 3.