BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: May Tigers rolling after another late start

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
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Longtime May boys basketball coach Steve Howard has gotten used to late starts and playing catch-up because of extra-long football seasons.

The six-man Tigers’ football team has made the playoffs for the last nine seasons, including four trips to the state finals that extended the 2013, 2014, 2020 and 2021 seasons to the Christmas holidays. After those seasons, the boys basketball team usually doesn’t play a game until after Christmas, when a lot of other schools have played 15 games or so.

“We don’t put everything in that we want to do. We keep it simple,” Howard said of managing the late starts. “We add some things as we go. We’re still adding some things this year.”

This season, the Tigers actually played a basketball game a week before their first organized practice.

May High School boys basketball coach Steve Howard

“This is my 27th year here, so the boys know my system. So that’s what we did,” Howard said.

“One advantage of starting later is that we don’t have to worry about peaking too soon like you do during a long season that starts in November. If we peak too soon starting in late December, we’re not any good anyway,” Howard joked.

The May boys are pretty good this season. They’re 8-3 overall and 5-1 in District 13-1A, a competitive, six-team league that includes Eula, Baird and Cross Plains. May’s only district loss is to Eula, which doesn’t play football.

All five May starters and top two players off the bench played on the Tigers’ football team in 2021. Luke McKenzie, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, was the starting quarterback in football. Other basketball starters include freshman Braden Steele at point guard, 5-10 junior Bryson Guerrero at guard, 6-4 senior Chase Martin at forward and 5-11 senior Kaysen King at post.

Senior guard Blake Harrell and senior post Avery Williford come off the bench. Howard said Harrell and Williford could be starters, but they weren’t able to join the team until January because of football injuries.

“We play hard man-to-man defense with good help-side defense. Our kids rotate really well,” Howard said of his team’s strengths. “And we run the floor well. We make other teams play 90 feet. We’re in good physical condition.”

Howard also has doubled as May’s superintendent for the last five years, but he plans to retire after the current school year. In addition to 27 years at May, he coached at Aspermont for five years and as a women’s basketball assistant at Howard Payne University for two years.

“I guess I’m going to go to work somewhere,” the 56-year-old Howard said when asked what’s next in retirement. “I help a guy run some cattle, and I’ll probably just do that full-time.”

Howard said he has no idea about his career coaching record, playoff appearances, etc.

“I don’t keep up with any of that,” he said. “I just go year to year and make it the best we can with what we have.”

Howard comes from a public school background. His dad, Tom Howard, was superintendent at Zephyr from 1967-1990. And when Steve Howard retires after this year, the family legacy will continue with his son, 26-year-old Justin Howard, elevating from assistant to head coach of May boys basketball.

“He does things different from me,” Steve Howard said of his son. “He has his own opinions, and we’re going to let him run with it.”

Around the area

The Brownwood boys remained undefeated in District 6-4A with Tuesday’s 86-65 win at Gatesville. The Lions (21-7 overall, 5-0 in district) made 15 shots from 3-point range, including seven by guard Jakob Hataway, who finished with 27 points. Guard Bryson Monroe added 20 points, and Tristan Salinas scored 14 points off the bench.

The Lions outscored Gatesville 33-15 in third quarter to break open a close game. Hataway, Monroe and Salinas combined for four consecutive 3-point shots that gave Brownwood as 63-45 lead during the third quarter.

“We’re 3-0 on the road, and that’s tough to do in this district with Lampasas and Glen Rose,” Lions coach Will Parker said. “We’ve really been shooting well the last week or so. After our win over Lampasas (92-87 last Friday) with a big crowd and a lot of energy, going on the road to Gatesville could have been a trap game. But we mixed up our defenses and shot the 3-ball really well.”

Brownwood was open Friday and will host Stephenville at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Warren Gym, where the Lions are 7-0 this season.

The Brownwood girls clinched a playoff berth with Tuesday’s 62-22 win at Gatesville. The Lady Lions (20-12, 3-4) got 16 points from Jaylen Savage, 14 from Kynslee Walker and 12 from Tessa Goodwin. The playoff berth was a key goal for the Lady Lions after missing the postseason last season for the first time under 13th-year head coach Heather Hohertz.

“It’s a testament to the girls and all the work they did back in the summer to get back to the playoffs,” Hohertz said. “They were dedicated to getting us back in.”

The Lady Lions finish their regular season by hosting No. 15-ranked Stephenville at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The Early boys have lost two straight District 8-3A games to No. 8 Peaster and No. 9 Brock, but the Longhorns (19-10, 6-4) are still vying with Dublin for the Nos. 3-4 playoff berths from the district. Peaster (10-0) and Brock (9-1) are the frontrunners. Early’s John Hill scored 14 points in a 64-35 loss to Peaster on Tuesday.