BOWIE — Before and after Saturday’s District 5-4A playoff between Denton and Wichita Falls Rider, the Broncos had their hands in the middle of their huddle and collectively shouted “brothers” or “family.”
With a trip to the playoffs on the line via the fourth seed out of 5-4A, the Broncos knew what it was going to take to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive season — playing as a cohesive unit.
“It gets us motivated to take on the game,” Denton senior Deamonte Hughes said. “We play as a family and we are a family. ‘One team. One dream. One family.’ That’s been the motto since 2004.”
With Rider defeating Wichita Falls 56-52 on Friday at Midwestern State to advance, the Broncos capitalized on the Raiders’ weak legs and won 49-40 with their high-energy, intrusive brand of defense.
“It is high risk, high reward, but we weren’t doing a lot of trapping out of it,” Denton coach Harold Jackson said of the team’s defensive strategy. “We knew that they played a spirited game [Friday] and exerted a lot of energy, so we were just trying to apply some full-court pressure to make sure we are getting to their legs and hopefully they wouldn’t be making the shots they were making [against Wichita Falls].”
The Broncos, who qualified for the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, tend to force opponents out of their comfort zone, and that was the case against the Raiders (18-14), who committed several turnovers that led to buckets in transition.
“Unfortunately we do take a little risk, but we know what our movements are and we play as brothers,” Hughes said. “When we don’t know what to do, we have to act as brothers and tell each other what we need to do.”
Hughes paced the Broncos with a game-high 18 points and said Saturday’s game was the team’s opportunity to make history for Denton High.
“Since the beginning of the season where we kept losing, we weren’t acting as a team,” Hughes said. “When district came, we started talking and started bonding in practice. That’s how we went 5-1. Then we started breaking down, but we understood that we need to go to the playoffs and leave a legacy as brothers.”
The Broncos (9-14) fell behind 8-2 less than four minutes into the game, but after a Denton timeout, they climbed back within two points and were down 12-10 heading into the second quarter.
Back-to-back buckets off steals evened the game at 14, and Hughes’ three free throws in the final seconds gave the Broncos a 22-19 lead at halftime.
The opening to the third quarter gave the Broncos the lift they needed as they pried open the game with a 12-2 run that gave Denton the biggest lead of the game at 34-21.
“Anytime you get a lead, it’s a big momentum switch, but it’s how you play the first three minutes of the second half,” Jackson said. “I thought we really came out and played really well to start the third quarter and that gave us some distance, and we were able to maintain that distance throughout the game.”
The Raiders fought back to within five points early in the fourth, but Hughes came up with three vital buckets in an 8-0 run to restore the Broncos’ 13-point lead.
“This year, we’ve asked him to do it all,” Jackson said of Hughes. “We’ve asked him to play defense and we’ve asked him to score. I thought he played tremendously. I thought he, Adarian Harris and Zac Muthiani really set the tone. They were not going home today.”
Up next for the Broncos is Fort Worth Dunbar on Monday, with the location yet to be determined.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.
Denton 49, Wichita Falls Rider 40
Wichita Falls Rider
Rider — Max Portman 15, Conner Chamberlain 9, Darius Barrett 7, Geoffrey Gerrard 4. Stephen Barrett 3, TJ Vasher 2.
Denton — Deamonte Hughes 18, Curtis Stevenson 11, Keyandre Hearvey 10, Adarian Harris 7, Dolen Nicholson 3.