FORT WORTH — Throughout the season, Guyer post player Justin Griffin has shown flashes of greatness, only to be hampered by foul trouble.
In Tuesday’s playoff opener, the senior leader sustained his high level of play and led Guyer to its first-ever boys basketball playoff win with a 63-39 rout of Saginaw at Keller Timber Creek.
“He came up huge, and that’s just his senior leadership showing,” first-year Guyer head coach Grant Long said. “This is a guy that’s grown from a boy to a man. He’s sent me motivational texts and YouTube clips before games. He wants to lead this team his senior year, and he put us on his back tonight.”
Long, who was an assistant for the Wildcats every season of the program’s existence except the first (2005-06), was happy to see his team start a new winning tradition after losing its only previous playoff game in 2009.
“I told them before the game that Guyer tradition starts with them,” Long said. “They came out and played like they can play. I’m so proud. Through any adversity they faced, they came and did what they needed to and battled.”
The Wildcats lost one of their best post players in Josh Jordan with an apparent knee injury with less than two minutes to play in the first half. It was only Jordan’s fourth game back from an injury to the same knee that kept him for most of the season.
But Griffin picked up the slack, and then some, scoring a game-high 20 points, including 11 in a pivotal third quarter that saw Guyer outscore Saginaw 18-3. He also pulled down five rebounds.
“He’s been out most of the year, so it’s just like normal, really,” Griffin said of Jordan’s absence. “I just had to play a little bit harder, I guess. We knew we could win it inside. We have big men that can finish, and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Wildcats (24-6), No. 10 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 4A state poll, used a stellar defensive effort to suffocate the Rough Riders’ offensive game, which was led by Dominique Johnson’s 17 points and Tyler Flores’ 12.
Miles Crawford added 14 points and six assists for Guyer.
Saginaw (20-12) went on scoreless streaks of 5:28 in the first quarter and 6:17 in the third quarter while Guyer went on 10-0 and 11-0 runs, respectively. Leading by seven points at halftime, the Wildcats pulled away in the third quarter.
“I think we responded from not a very good defensive effort in the second quarter, and we really turned it on in the third,” Long said. “This group just responds. They never give up.”
Guyer moves on to face Fort Worth Arlington Heights, which defeated Everman 39-38 on Tuesday.
“They’re big and have length and athleticism,” Long said of Arlington Heights. “They like to run the floor and they can block shots inside. We have to make sure we block out and hold them to one shot.”
GUYER 63, SAGINAW 39
Saginaw (20-12) — Dominique Johnson 17, Ashten Newton 4, Syntrell Greer 1, Tyler Flores 11, Arique Moss 5.
Guyer (24-6) — Jerrod Heard 2, Sean Choate 3, Shelton Childress 2, Miles Crawford 14, Alex Partridge 2, Zack Duncan 7, Josh Jordan 6, Dave Dhaliwal 6, Justin Griffin 20.