With a showdown for second place in District 5-4A against Trophy Club Nelson looming around the corner, the Denton Broncos took care of business in their final home game of the season Friday with a 72-42 victory over last-place Wichita Falls Rider on senior night.
Erik Dixon led the Broncos’ scoring attack down low with 13 points in a starting role. Junior Adarian Harris and senior Chavis Johnson both added 10 points with T.J. Vasher leading the Raiders with 14 points.
The Broncos came out of the gate looking indecisive; allowing the Raiders to hang around with their outside shooting along with Denton’s missed layups, free throws and unlucky bounces. Denton eventually took a 10-3 lead before Rider answered with a 10-4 run to draw within one point at the end of the first with the score at 14-13.
“At times, I thought we were probably a bit too unselfish in the first half,” Denton head coach Harold Jackson said. “I think we were passing up pretty good opportunities and I can’t fault them for that because they like each other and they want to see each other be truly successful.”
Both teams turned the ball over in the second quarter with no team able to turn the tide for an extended period. The Raiders’ defense did a good job forcing Denton into tough shots around the basket, but the Broncos powered their way to the free-throw line, where both teams struggled in a foul-laden second quarter.
“It was senior night and we tried to honor seniors and that kind of thing so our rotation was off with our personnel and it showed in our play,” Jackson said. “In the second half, we got our rotation back and we were sharper and better.”
Denton’s defense forced several Rider turnovers while in transition on its way to a 7-2 run that saw Denton up 25-18 midway through the quarter. The Raiders were able to climb back into the game by getting down the court for easy buckets as many of Rider’s points came with Denton players running back on defense after pressing. The Broncos held a 31-23 lead heading into halftime, where Jackson reminded his players to get back to fundamentals.
“I told them that we needed to sharpen up, be a little more fundamentally sound and make sure that we were taking care of our responsibilities offensively and defensively,” Jackson said. “That’s what we came out in the third quarter and did. We were a bit sharper in our rotations and our executions. So we were able to get some stops and some fast-break opportunities.”
Denton’s defense came out more energetic in the third quarter with all the Broncos getting in the scoring action. Deamonte Hughes’ transition layup capped a 6-0 run to open the quarter and a Harris steal led to his pass to Michael Jackson for the breakaway dunk to give the Broncos a 42-25 lead.
The Broncos’ renewed defensive energy began to translate into an efficient offense as the Broncos rattled off another 7-0 run with five more points from Harris, who was everywhere defensively for Denton.
Up 56-30 after three quarters, Denton was able to extend their lead to 32 points at 63-31 before Jackson replaced all five starters with seniors to finish out the final four and a half minutes of the game.
Greg Helt also returned from his broken foot injury to score six points, but played limited minutes off the bench. Jackson said he was cautious about reinserting Helt in too quickly as to not disturb the recent run of cohesion and success Denton has seen.
“This is his first game back,” Jackson said. “He just got released, so he hasn’t had any practices. Hopefully we can knock some of that rust off over the next week so he can be a contributor in the playoffs. You’ve got to be careful though, because you don’t want to mess up what’s been working to work somebody in. So the key is to find his spots and put him in a position to be successful.”
With one regular season game remaining and playoff positioning on the line with the second-place deciding tilt between Denton and Byron Nelson, Jackson said that this time of the season should be its own motivator to the Broncos heading into Tuesday.
“We always want to win and be successful,” Jackson said. “I don’t believe in moral victories or moral defeats. I don’t think that a team needs to lose to get motivated. From this point on, after Byron Nelson, you are either motivated to play your best basketball or you are going to go home for the rest of the year. So to me, that is the motivator. We want to play well at Byron Nelson, but we still want to make sure we are peaking at the right time.”
The Broncos (16-13, 11-2) are certainly on the rise, scoring at least in the 60s in the past four games with their two losses to Guyer as their only losses in the past month and a half.
For Jackson, he still wants to see more consistency out of his team in their final stretch to the playoffs.
“I don’t necessarily think we are peaking,” Jackson said. “I know our scores have been big, but I think there have been too many lulls in the game where we don’t play well. We need to clean that up and hopefully we can clean those up prior to the Byron Nelson game and into the first round of the playoffs.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Denton 72, Wichita Falls Rider 42
Wichita Falls 13 10 7 12 — 42
Denton 14 17 25 16 — 72
Wichita Falls (6-23, 1-12) — T.J. Vasher 14, Max Portmann 7, Qua Pope 6, Michael Tull 5, Chris Stevenson 3, Darius Barrett 3, Alec Lemmon 2, Ben Roche 2.
Denton (16-13, 11-2) — Erik Dixon 13, Adarian Harris 10, Chavis Johnson 10, Deamonte Hughes 8, Romeo Purvis 8, Manny Patterson 7, Michael Jackson 6, Greg Helt 6, Ryan Daniels 4, DeRodney Thomas 2