Along with lights, ornaments and presents, the end of December is marked by some of the biggest basketball tournaments in the area. As the calendar year winds down, things on the court pick up when the high school football season ends.
Guyer and Denton will play in the Fort Worth school district’s Coca-Cola Classic. The tournament starts today and finishes Saturday.
The Wildcats open play this morning against Arlington Bowie at 8 a.m., with the winner facing Fort Worth Wyatt.
Down the bracket, Denton opens against Fort Worth Arlington Heights at 11 a.m., with the winner facing Mansfield Timberview or Keller Fossil Ridge.
A strong showing for the two Denton teams could provide the squads with momentum for district play.
“I think when you look at a tournament like this and if you compete really well, it allows you to get confidence,” Denton coach Harold Jackson said.
The Broncos (6-10, 1-1 District 5-4A) will face Arlington Heights, which lost last season to Ryan in the Class 4A Region I final. Arlington Heights is one of nine teams in the 15-team tournament that reached the playoffs last season.
Jackson said the tournament, which will be held at Fort Worth’s Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center, gives his players a chance to shake off some rust after five days of rest.
Last season, the Broncos were able to reach the consolation bracket final, giving Denton the boost it needed to contend for a playoff spot.
This year, Jackson said he’s been pleased with the way his eight seniors — four of which are starters — have stepped up and provided a sense of leadership. Jackson said he’s pleased with the way his team has responded to coaching and this weekend could be a springboard for the Broncos.
“I think our kids really get up for the competition,” Jackson said. “They’ll really enjoy looking forward to playing the types of teams we play. It’s a really good tournament for us. It really tests us.”
The tournament, now in its 15th year, features two of the top teams in the state. Mansfield Timberview enters the tournament ranked fourth in Class 5A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. Austin Lyndon B. Johnson is No. 2 in Class 4A.
Guyer is No. 17 in 4A and soon will receive the services of two key players. Jerrod Heard and D.J. Breedlove will be joining the Wildcats after leading the football team to the Class 4A Division I state championship Saturday.
Guyer coach Grant Long said that while the two juniors have yet to see any action, Heard and Breedlove spent time on the hardwood all spring and summer, shortening their transition process.
Long said the pair brings speed, athleticism, toughness and a “shot in the arm” to a team that’s won 11 of 14 games and is 2-0 in district play. Heard will play this weekend, while Breedlove will take about a week to nurse an injury.
“We have a great bunch of guys already, and I think they’ll be a complement to those guys,” Long said. “We have a luxury of having some good players that have been in the gym and had success, and I think [Heard and Breedlove] will come in and fit right in.”
Guard Miles Crawford has helped the Wildcats jump out to their tremendous start, averaging about 15 points per game. Long said center Justin Griffin stepped up when Josh Jordan went down with a knee injury. Long said he expects Jordan to be out for another month.
This weekend’s tournament gives the Wildcats an opportunity to slowly bring Heard and Breedlove up to speed as Guyer goes up against some of the state’s top teams.
“It’s going to be a good thing for us to get those guys some playing time and minutes and get them in the mix, get them accustomed to what we’re doing,” Long said.
Ryan to play in The Colony tournament starting Friday
While Guyer and Denton will start tournament play today, the Ryan Raiders will have an extra day of practice to prepare for this weekend’s Tommy Thomas Cougar Classic at The Colony.
Ryan coach Bryce Overstreet echoed Jackson’s sentiments about shaking off any cobwebs, and Overstreet said he’d like to have his team back to where it was a week ago.
Ryan (10-3) is still weeks away from starting District 5-5A play Jan. 11 against Lewisville. This weekend’s tournament provides the Raiders an opportunity to regain continuity that hasn’t been evident at times this season.
“We haven’t been consistent,” Overstreet said. “We haven’t gained as much ground as I would have liked to have at this point in time. We are making progress. It’s just taking its time.”
Ryan returned only two lettermen from last year’s team that reached the Class 4A state tournament.
The Raiders have had the challenge of integrating several new faces as well as junior football players Xavier Gray, Tyrone Williams and Trent Willis.
Gray will be making his first appearance of the season in this weekend’s tournament, Overstreet said. Gray has been sidelined with an ankle injury suffered during football season, and Overstreet said he doesn’t know what role Gray will fill.
Overstreet said the task of getting his team fully meshed isn’t easy; however, the four games the Raiders will play this weekend will help them have time to figure things out before the start of district play.
“Every year’s a little bit different as to how quickly it comes together,” Overstreet said. “Fortunately for us, we’ve got a little bit more time than what we have in years past.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com.