FORT WORTH — The majority of basketball coaches preach the importance of winning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second as a key factor to winning games.
Guyer coach Grant Long and Everman’s Jay Mathieson are no different, and on Friday it was Mathieson’s team that made the key run to open the second half to lead Everman to a 71-55 win over a short-handed Guyer team in the Class 4A Region I area round.
“They really turned up the pressure in the third quarter and took us out of what we want to do,” Long said of a period that saw Everman outscore the Wildcats 19-4 after Guyer closed within five at the break. “We were really trying to get it inside to the post, and their quickness and athleticism was pushing out. We couldn’t get any offense started.”
The Wildcats (18-11) were playing without four players who were suspended indefinitely this week and saw the season debuts of DJ Breedlove and Jerrod Heard, who suited up to give the Wildcats some depth off the bench and some defensive presence to combat Everman’s standout guard play.
“We try to build our program so that no matter what we come across or what adversity we face it’s always the next guy up,” Long said. “I was in full confidence [Thursday] after practice that we could win this game.”
Guyer had a massive size advantage against the No. 13 Bulldogs (25-3) but couldn’t make it work in its favor because of the Bulldogs’ tenacious defensive pressure and ability to switch off screens with someone equally athletic and quick on the defensive end.
Guyer senior post player Josh Jordan finished with six points and seven rebounds while reserve post Gordon Hill finished with two points and five boards.
It was Everman’s Ka’Juan Malveau who took the game over. He carried the Bulldogs in the first half with 21 of his game-high 27 points, including a 5-for-6 first half from beyond the arc.
“It’s a tribute to him as a player,” Long said of Malveau. “I’d say 90 percent of those shots there’s a hand in his face and we’re tight on him. The game plan was to not give him an inch and stay on him tight and run him off the 3-point line. When he’s hitting them at the volleyball line and getting them in transition with a hand in his face, it’s tough.”
The key moment in the third came when senior guard Miles Crawford, one of Guyer’s team leaders and a three-year starter, picked up his fourth foul with 3:31 remaining and the Wildcats down by eight.
Everman then closed the quarter on a 12-0 run.
The Wildcats were able to contain Malveau in the second half but opened up shots for his teammates, and that eventually became too much for Guyer to handle.
“I knew we had to get on them early in the third quarter and get the lead so they couldn’t spread us out and get us in an up-and-down game,” Long said.
Crawford led Guyer with 18 points.
Long said he will fondly remember his senior class, including Breedlove and Heard, who played varsity basketball as sophomores and juniors before joining the team for the final game of their senior season. They each finished with four points and provided a spark, notably in the second quarter when Heard had a thunderous dunk in the midst of Guyer’s run.
“This group really built Guyer basketball tradition and really put us on the map,” Long said after the team won its first district championship last season and finished second this year. “It’s just going to continue. We have a lot of good, young players that will do great things. This program is on the rise, and it’s going to keep coming.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.