JUSTIN — The best season in Guyer boys basketball history came to an end Friday night as the Wildcats were overmatched inside and could not contain two post players, falling to Fort Worth Arlington Heights 58-50 in the Class 4A Region I area round.
The Yellow Jackets appeared to be in trouble early on as Guyer raced out to a big first-quarter lead and got just 10 points combined by their two stars in the post — A’Shawn Robinson and Damontre McFarland.
But the second half told a different story as Guyer (24-7) could do nothing to contain the pair, especially on the offensive glass, watching the Yellow Jackets (20-11) pull away for a win to advance to the regional quarterfinals where they will meet District 7-4A rival Fort Worth Trimble Tech, which defeated Denton earlier Friday night.
“Their size and their length really hurt us, especially with the offensive rebounds,” Guyer head coach Grant Long said. “They’re just so long and athletic.
“I knew if we could keep shooting the ball well [like in the first quarter] we’d be OK, but our shots just weren’t falling in the second half.”
McFarland, a 6-foot-8 senior, and Robinson, a 6-4, 320-pound hybrid guard/post who has signed to play football at Alabama as a defensive lineman, were too much for the Wildcats, scoring 14 points apiece and pulling down endless rebounds.
Robinson, in particular, impressed Long with his athletic ability and his ability to bang down low while also bring the ball up the floor and darting into passing lanes for steals.
“For his size, his footwork and speed are special,” Long said. “He sees the floor well, and when we’d crash in on him he’d see the open guys and kick it out them. He was a special player — an impact player.”
Guyer jumped out to a commanding lead in the game’s first few minutes off of four points each from posts Justin Griffin and Jerrod Heard and led by as many as nine points with just more than a minute to play in the first quarter.
But the Yellow Jackets roared back in the second quarter, beating Guyer at its own game — beyond the 3-point line as Leon Sanders hit back-to-back 3s in a 38-second span to pull the Yellow Jackets to within two points before they tied it going into the half.
Robinson said he knew he and McFarland had to step up their game in the second half to neutralize Guyer’s speed on the outside.
“Yeah, we knew what we had to do,” Robinson said. “We knew we had to get inside because they weren’t big enough for us. We knew we just had to use our size and athleticism to win the game.”
Griffin fouled out with 2:38 to play, and Heard fouled out in the final minute. Post Josh Jordan, who re-injured his knee in Tuesday’s bi-district win over Saginaw, missed the game and would have given the Wildcats not only another big body down low, but one of their best players.
“Josh is one of the best players in the state,” Long said of his junior, who missed most of the season with an ailing knee. “The great thing about him, though, is that he’s with us whether he’s on the floor or not. He’s an all-around leader for us and gives us so much all the time, no matter if he’s playing.”
As the Yellow Jackets began to build a lead in the third quarter, it appeared their free-throw shooting could do them in. On the night, they finished 16 for 36 from the foul line, including a 21-second span in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter when they went 0 for 6. But the Wildcats couldn’t trim the lead from 52-45 as the Yellow Jackets got some big offensive rebounds from Robinson and Tyler Kelly.
Kelly hit some key free throws down the stretch to help ice the game and end the Wildcats’ season.
“They have struggled [from the line] at times this season,” said Arlington Heights head coach Jon Wagner. “But we’ve gotten better as the season went on and they hit them when they counted.”
Guyer was led by junior guard Miles Crawford, who scored a game-high 18 points but was only 2 for 9 from beyond the arc. That was the story of the Wildcats’ night. Usually a sharp long-distance shooting team, Guyer’s main three 3-point threats — Crawford, Zack Duncan and Sean Choate — combined to go 4 for 19 from long range.
“We’re a great outside shooting team,” Long said. “So I’m very comfortable with all of our shooters we have and we’ll always be able to shoot from outside. We would like a little more balance in attacking the basket and getting the ball inside, and I think their size just took that away from us.”
The Wildcats still had a historic season, winning their first district title and their first playoff game in the program’s relatively young history, and Long knows he still has things to be happy about from the year — his first as a head coach after being an assistant at Guyer since the 2006-07 season.
“I couldn’t be more proud or more blessed to work with this group of kids,” Long said. “The passion and the heart that they play with are second to none. Win or lose, that doesn’t define these guys. They learn from their failures and this will only make them better.”
The Wildcats will lose only one senior starter while the core of their team returns for one more season, which Long believes could be a special.
“The younger kids we have coming, and the kids we have now all have this program where it needs to be,” Long said. “We won our first district championship, and won district championships in seventh, eighth, ninth [grades] and junior varsity this year. We’ll be in good shape for a while to come.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Fort Worth Arlington Heights 58, Guyer 50
Arlington Heights 11 14 17 16 — 58
Guyer 17 8 13 12 — 50
Arlington Heights (20-11) — Derrick Lightner 3, Leon Sanders 6, Lavelle Scottie 2, Justin Hemphill 7, Kendall Washington 2, Brennan Bibbs 3, Tyler Kelly 7, A’Shawn Robinson 14, Damontre McFarland 14.
Guyer (24-7) — Jerrod Heard 4, Sean Choate 6, Miles Crawford 18, Alex Partridge 2, Mitchell Willard 2, Zack Duncan 10, Justin Griffin 8.