BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS: No. 25 Christoval tops Coleman, returns to regional tournament
BRONTE — The Christoval Cougars survived a physical battle with a 52-34 win over Coleman on Tuesday to advance to the regional tournament for the second year in a row in Class 2A boys basketball.
The No. 25-ranked Cougars improved to 26-5. Coleman's season ended with a record of 19-13.
Christoval will play No. 12 Olton in the Region I-2A semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Friday at South Plains College in Levelland.
Christoval trailed 10-6 after the first quarter, but the Cougars responded with a 20-point second quarter to take a 26-20 lead into halftime.
Christoval got its expected offensive production from leading scorers Josh Fava, Jaron Slaton and Beau Jolly but the Cougars got their spark from the bench in Ketcher Joiner, who nailed back-to-back 3-point goals just when they needed them.
“We always talk about playing with intensity and playing with confidence and everybody on the team knows that if you’re open, you better shoot the ball,” said Joiner, who scored all eight of his total in a second-quarter run for the Cougars that put them in the lead and set the tone for the rest of the game.
“I shot the ball well, my teammates having my back – they’re always screaming at me to shoot the ball – and sometimes you let it fly and you get lucky. My dad always says, ‘Shooters shoot’ and to take every shot like it’s going in and some of them are bound to go in.”
The Cougars pulled away from there and led 43-27 after the third quarter.
Christoval head coach Bryan Blackwell knew it was more than just luck for the junior.
“He’s done that a couple of times this year,” said Blackwell, who has led the Cougars to a 120-64 record in six seasons at Christoval. “It was obviously the surge we needed. We needed some kind of boost to basically calm us down.”
Joiner helped the Cougars shut down the confidence the Bluecats gained from the 10-6 start. The 20-10 run in the second quarter started with Jolly’s steal and layup on the other end along with Slaton’s two free throws to knot the score at 10-10 with 5:08 to play but it caught fire with the two high-arching treys from Joiner.
From there, the Cougars never trailed, although Coleman cut a 11-point deficit at the midpoint of the second quarter to just six points by halftime.
“It took us a little bit to get going,” Blackwell said. “Credit to Coleman. They came out with a good game plan, and they matched us with athleticism….but we knew we had to match that to take it to another level.”
Coleman head coach Cameron Lowman, who is in his fourth year leading the Bluecat program, said he felt his team played good enough defense to win the game but couldn’t seal the deal on the offensive end of the court.
“We had one point in the third (quarter) until about a minute left,” the coach said. “We got the looks we wanted but we just couldn’t knock (the shots) down.”
Christoval went on a 15-1 run and led 41-21 when Slaton hit two free throws with 1:22 to play in the third quarter. Coleman went on a 4-2 mini-run in the final 45 seconds of the third quarter and another 6-2 run to start the fourth to pull within 45-33 with 6:20 to play, but the Cougars scored the final six points of the game.
It was still the Bluecats’ best season since Lowman took over the program.
“It’s the furthest we’ve gone – we figured out it’s probably been at least a few decades,” said Lowman. “I know it was the first time we went three rounds into the playoffs since 2014-15. I’m really proud of this group.
“Things didn’t go our way early on in the year,” the Coleman coach said. “We were 2-3 in district (8-2A) and then we won five straight and finished as district champs. And then two playoff wins. Christoval is a good group. We knew we had our work cut out for us. We knew we had to play our best. Defensively, I thought we were OK. But offensively, we couldn’t knock down the shots.”
The Christoval defensive effort was the key, according to Joiner and Slaton.
"We just keep playing our defense, that's what we take our pride on," Joiner said. "That’s what wins ball games and good defense leads to good offense."
Slaton said the "Fist" defense implemented this season by Blackwell has improved the Cougars, who squeaked by district rival Eldorado (41-33) last year in this same round.
"We felt like we could come out and be that gritty team and make those stops," said Slaton, a junior. "It was our first year (with the new defense) and I was expecting more of a transition year. But it seemed to come naturally."
Fava, one of three seniors on the squad along with Jolly and reserve Cobi Woodfin, said the atmosphere of the game and the loud Christoval crowd inspired the Cougars. Woodfin was also a spark off the bench for the Cougars.
"We expected the game to be intense and it was fun and exciting; our fans are awesome," said Fava, who survived all of football season as Christoval's main running back without an injury only to injure his left (non-shooting) hand in a nondistrict basketball game.
"I can't believe I'm here and it feels awesome," said Fava, who made it back from the injury in time to help the Cougars win another district title. "We've been working hard for this all year long and we finally get to go to a regional tournament."
Last year, due to COVID restrictions by the UIL on tournaments and large crowds, the Cougars played the regional semifinal against Clarendon on a Tuesday at a neutral site instead of the usual Friday-Saturday regional tournament format in one location.
Class 2A Boys
Christoval 52, Coleman 34
Christoval 6 20 17 9—52
Coleman 10 10 7 7—34
CHRISTOVAL: Josh Fava 5 0-0 14, Landon Scott 1 0-2 2, Beau Jolly 5 3-5 13, Cayden Carpenter 0 0-0 0, Cobi Woodfin 0 0-0 0, Ketcher Joiner 3 0-0 8, Jaron Slaton 2 6-6 11, Sevastian Salinas 0 2-2 2, Totals 17 11-15 52.
COLEMAN: Blaze Hronek 2 0-0 4, Devinar Roberson 1 0-0 2, Adam Mason 0 0-0 0, Jadin Jackson 0 0-0 0, Braxton Smith 3 2-2 9, David Navarro 2 1-2 5, Hunter Lackey 0 1-2 1, Ryland Gentry 2 1-6 5, Jordan Bell 4 0-0 8, Totals 14 5-12 34.
3-point goals: Christoval 7 (Fava 4, Joiner 2, Slaton), Coleman 1 (Smith). Total fouls: Christoval 14, Coleman 14. Records: Christoval improved to 26-5 and advanced to Region I-2A semifinals; Coleman finished the season 19-13.