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AREA BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Some schools struggling just to play during pandemic

Mike Lee
Special to the Brownwood Bulletin
Basketball

The Brookesmith boys basketball team normally would have played 10-11 games by now. Instead, the Class 1A Mustangs have played one game.

Two COVID-related school shutdowns — one just before Thanksgiving and another from Dec. 9 through Jan. 3 — forced the Mustangs to cancel at least nine games. The Brookesmith boys are scheduled to host Moran on Friday, giving the Mustangs two games under their belt before opening District 17-1A play Tuesday against Rochelle.

“We’ve only had four or five practices all season,” said Brookesmith’s Scott Edmondson, a 17-year varsity basketball coach. “I’d normally have a good feel for my player rotation by now. But we’ve got some new players this year, and we’re still learning our plays. I’m still learning which kids play the best together.”

School closings and quarantines because of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused multiple cancellations and headaches for some Brown County basketball coaches, who are playing catch-up as their teams begin district.

The Brookesmith girls, a playoff team last season, beat Lohn in their District 17-1A opener Tuesday in their first game in 27 days — since the Dec. 9 shutdown. The win over Lohn evened the Lady Mustangs’ record to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in district.

“We were slower, and we’re not in shape. I don’t know if we’ll ever get in shape this season,” Brookesmith girls’ coach Danny Copeland said Wednesday. “Basketball players have to work together and spend time together. Today in practice it felt like we were backtracking two months.”

Copeland noted that eliminating tournaments because of COVID concerns limited the number of games played — even for teams with fewer cancellations this season.

“There’s nothing like a November tournament to work out the bugs early in the season. But here we are in January, and it’s hard to have any continuity or rhythm,” Copeland said.

On the other side of Brown County at 1A Blanket, Tyler Tabor said the boys’ basketball season has been a struggle since Day 1.

“It’s day to day for us because most of our cancellations have come so late, you can’t find another team to play,” said Tabor, Blanket’s athletic director and assistant basketball coach.

The Blanket boys are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in District 18-1A. The Tigers lost multiple games when the school shut down before the Thanksgiving break.

“We basically had to start over after Thanksgiving. Then we played one game, and it was Christmas break,” Tabor said. “I hope we can keep playing, but we’re about to throw stock shows in the middle of it. I’m hopeful the vaccine will help, but it may be next year (2021-2022 school year) before it does.”

Next door in Mills County, the Priddy boys and girls both are undefeated in District 18-1A despite late starts. The Priddy girls didn’t play their first game until Dec. 18 — their district opener against Blanket. The Lady Pirates squeezed in games just before and after the five-day UIL-mandated Christmas break, and currently stand 5-2, 3-0 in District 18-1A.

“We canceled eight games and at least 12 practices,” said fourth-year Lady Pirates coach Jimmie Cain, whose school closed twice between Nov. 9 and Dec. 10. “I’ve changed my philosophy to have more team scrimmaging in practice because our timing’s just not there. It shows up when you play a (state-ranked) team like May or Huckabay.”

The Priddy boys are 4-3, 2-0 in District 18-1A, but longtime coach Curtis Hurst said he has canceled nine games and 20 practices because of COVID-19.

“We’re still trying to figure out and run our basic plays,” said Hurst, who has coached the Pirates to 26 playoff berths in 28 seasons. “We’re doing things wrong that we usually fix at the beginning of the season.”

Teams that have had multiple cancellations are no doubt behind their normal midseason form, but they have no choice but to play on and do their best under the circumstances.

“We have to play the cards we’re dealt this year. I’m about ready to fold,” Edmondson joked. “Oh, it’ll eventually all come together. It always does.”

Around the area

The Class 1A May girls are the only Brown County team ranked in this week’s Texas Association of Basketball Coaches statewide polls. The Lady Tigers, 12-2 after opening District 13-1A Tuesday with a 75-13 win over Moran, are ranked No. 12.

District 29-2A has three state-ranked girls teams in No. 3 San Saba, 15-0 after Tuesday’s 76-10 win over Center Point; No. 13 Mason, 9-4 after a two-week COVID quarantine; and No. 21 Harper (13-2).

The Brownwood Lady Lions (7-9, 1-1 in District 6-4A) led No. 6-ranked Glen Rose for most of Tuesday’s district game at Glen Rose. The Lady Tigers rallied, though, for a 36-32 win. On Friday, the Brownwood girls host another state-ranked team in Lampasas (16-3, 0-1) at 6 p.m. in Warren Gym.

The Brownwood boys (8-6) won their fourth consecutive nondistrict game Tuesday with a 63-56 home win over Class 5A Granbury. The Lions are scheduled to play their final nondistrict game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sweetwater. The Lions are set to open their District 6-4A schedule at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Gatesville.