BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Brownwood boys have a lot to build on after encouraging season

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood senior John Wilheim goes for a block on Wichita Falls Hirschi's Ernest Young in a Region I-4A area playoff Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, at the Breckenridge ISD Athletic and Fine Arts Center. A shooting foul was called on the play.

Even though it didn’t end with a third consecutive bidistrict win, the Brownwood varsity boys were one of the few basketball teams around that didn’t have their 2020-21 season impacted by COVID-19.

The Lions finished 13-10 after falling to Burkburnett 77-70 in bidistrict on Monday, Feb. 22. The setback denied Brownwood a bidistrict win for a third straight season.

But in the bigger picture, the Lions didn’t have their continuity broken like many area teams. Other teams were forced to stop and restart their season — some multiple times — and many teams lost a player or two for 10 days because of a positive COVID test or an exposure.

The Brownwood boys escaped the season with no games canceled and no players testing positive — or even having to quarantine because of an exposure.

“Actually, we were very fortunate,” fifth-year Lions’ head coach Nadir Dalleh said Friday. “We had some COVID issues in our lunchroom early on, so our varsity players decided to either eat lunch in their locker room or just skip lunch and go to the gym and shoot baskets.

“They also wore masks regularly during class.”

The unusually cold weather with ice and snow was another matter, though. Brownwood never got to play its final District 6-4A game at Lampasas scheduled for Feb. 12 because of icy roads. The winner would have earned the No. 2 seed in the district, but Dalleh eventually elected to take the No. 3 seed and move his team’s focus forward toward the playoffs.

“Our school was closed for 10 days because of the weather, and when the school is closed, the gym has to be closed,” Dalleh explained. “So we weren’t even able to practice for 10 days. I didn’t want to take a team that hadn’t practiced that long and go play a game (at Lampasas).”

Taking the third seed meant Brownwood faced Burkburnett, the No. 2 seed from District 5-4A.

“It was a close game most of the way,” Dalleh said of the 77-70 bidistrict loss. “We had a five-point lead and the ball with four minutes left, but our point guard had cramps in both legs. And Burk went on one of those runs they’re known for when they hit multiple 3-pointers.

“It was a disappointing loss because we played well enough to win.”

But considering the Lions began this season with only two varsity returnees from last year’s 28-6 team, Dalleh chalked 2020-2021 up as a good season for his program.

“We went through some growing pains. We scheduled some tough nondistrict games like Abilene Cooper — they won their 5A district — and Aledo,” the coach said.

“There are some little things we need to work on for next season. We missed several shots right at the rim against Burk. If we had made one-fourth of those shots, we would have won. We have to get used to contact when we’re that close to the rim. And we also have to learn to deal with the pressure of the playoffs and what’s on the line when we get good shots close to the basket,” Dalleh said.

“The other thing is learning how to finish games and win close games. We lost three nondistrict games (Dublin, Alvarado and China Spring) by a combined seven points.”

Dalleh is losing seven seniors, but he will return three juniors who started this season to build around in 2021-2022. Christian Kinzler, a 6-foot-5 forward, averaged 13 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season. Jakob Hataway will return as the Lions’ starting point guard after averaging 11.1 points and 5 assists as a junior this season. Also returning is 6-1 shooting guard Bryson Monroe, who averaged 12.5 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Luke Moss, a 6-5 forward and usually the first player off the bench during games this season, also returns after averaging 4.5 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Monroe, Kinzler, Moss and Hataway combined for 61 of Brownwood’s 70 points in the bidistrict game.

Around the area

The San Saba girls, Region IV-2A runner-up the last four years, have breezed into the regional final with four impressive wins in the last eight days. The Lady Dillos (26-1) beat Sabinal 95-28 in bidistrict, Freer 58-41 in area, District 29-2A rival Harper 49-18 in the regional quarterfinals, and Normangee 55-19 in the regional semifinals. In Friday’s win, San Saba led just 12-11 before its defense held Normangee scoreless for 13 minutes. The Lady Dillos finished the game on a 43-8 run.

If Mason beat Snook on Saturday in the other regional semifinal, it’ll be San Saba vs. Mason for the Region IV-2A championship for the fourth consecutive year. Among Mason’s playoff wins was a 40-22 decision Thursday over District 29-2A rival Goldthwaite in the regional quarterfinals.

The No. 8-ranked May girls, who were state ranked all season, fell to No. 13 Westbrook 45-33 Wednesday in the Region II-1A quarterfinals. Reese Chambers scored 17 points, but May teammate Roberta Robinette was limited to 10 points and handcuffed in foul trouble for much of the game. May finished 22-5. In the area round, May beat Munday 40-32 as Robinette scored 16 points.

The May boys fell 50-43 Wednesday to Knox City in the area round of the Region II-1A playoffs. Rory Bustamante scored 20 points, but the Tigers were held to only two points in the third quarter. May finished 12-5 after a late start because the Tigers advanced to the Class 1A Division I state championship game in football.

The San Saba boys, the defending Region IV-2A champion, won their first two playoff games by beating La Pryor 58-46 and Yorktown 57-50. The Armadillos (18-4) played Sabinal in the regional quarterfinals Saturday. Goldthwaite, the No. 2 seed from District 29-2A behind San Saba, lost 38-33 in bidistrict to Brackett.

The Blanket boys lost their Region III-1A bidistrict game 37-29 to Richland Springs despite 15 points from Tyler Simpson. Blanket finished 11-5. Jadeyn Bryant led Richland Springs with 16 points. The Coyotes fell to Lingleville 75-36 in the area round.

The Comanche boys lost 86-49 to state-ranked Wichita Falls City View in their Region I-3A bidistrict game. The Indians, who won three games in five days to clinch a playoff berth, finished 10-9.

The Priddy girls and boys both lost close games in the Region III-1A area round. The Lady Pirates, who finished 17-4, fell 42-39 to Lingleville. The Pirates, who finished 14-7, were edged 50-48 by Huckabay.