As High School Basketball Playoffs Loom, Madness Ensues Across El Paso
The dawn of the varsity boys basketball season is in effect, as playoffs approach the horizon for several clubs across the city of El Paso. But in both districts, a little bit of mayhem has ensued, which has made the final playoff spots up for grabs in both districts.
Who's locked in 5A:
- (3) Hanks at (2) Andress
- (3) Chapin at (2) Eastwood
- (4) Eastlake at (1) Burges
- (4) TBA at (1) Parkland
Following Tristen Newton's buzzer-beater on senior night against Andress (52-50), the Mustangs captured the 1-5A title at a perfect 17-0 district season. Newton, who's El Paso's leading scorer by a long shot, is averaging 39 points per game for Burges. They will take on a scrappy Eastlake team in the opening round of the 5A playoffs.
In an overtime finish, the Parkland Matadors snagged the 2-5A district championship off an Aaron Robinson game-winning 3-pointer, as they beat Eastwood, 54-52, on Tuesday evening. The Matadors (28-3, 17-1) will take on the winner of the tournament between El Paso High, Bowie and Austin.
Andress has shown true flashes of greatness this season, using the likes of 6-foot-1 point guard Keshon White as their go-to senior leader. They will square off against a feisty Hanks team that upset Parkland (53-51) earlier this season.
Eastwood's first season under head coach Peter Morales proved to be a success, even though the Troopers ultimately fell to second place in the end. They used the duo of Tyler Cloud and Joseph Barnes to propel them with almost 20 points per game combined. They will face Chapin in the first round, which is a senior-led team that finished in third place of 1-5A.
Tournament-style entry for the final spot
No one said getting to the playoffs was easy, but hear this out: whoever wins the three-team tournament between Bowie, Austin and El Paso High could have played up to three games in four days once the playoffs hit.
A coin toss determined the tournament for the three teams, who all finished 8-8 in district 1-5A play. Austin won the coin toss, so they will earn a first-game bye, as Bowie will travel to El Paso High on Friday at 7 p.m., to which the winner will advance and play the Panthers at Jefferson High School on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Led by senior guard Jackson Yellen -- son of former UTEP Miner Steve Yellen -- the Tigers were able to stop Austin on Tuesday evening to create the madness and three-way tie. Austin, who is led by seniors Noah Daw and Dante Salcido, could have clinched a playoff berth had they beat El Paso on Tuesday.
Who's locked in 6A:
- (1) Americas vs. (4) Frenship at Pecos High School
- (2) Coronado vs. (3) Midland
- (3) Pebble Hills vs. (2) Tascosa
- (4) TBA vs. (1) Odessa Permian
As great of a season that Coronado (20-11, 8-2) had, their lone two losses in district play came at the hands of the near-perfect season that the Americas Trailblazers (27-7, 10-0) had this year. And that's the biggest storyline of 1-6A this season.
The Trailblazers were led by their senior big three in Angel Gutierrez (13 ppg, 6 rebounds), Tyler Wilson (6 ppg, 2 rebounds, 3 assists) and Joseph DeAnda (9.9 ppg). Throw in surging senior Eric Casteneda's eight points per game, and you've got a complete team coached under Mike Brooks in Americas. Is this the year that Americas makes their own nice run at the state playoffs?
They were too much for an up-and-comer, like Coronado, who boasted their dynamic senior point guard Ayaan Sohail (20.1 ppg, 3 assists, 3 steals per game) and 6-foot-8 forward Hank Hayes (10.9 ppg, 7.7 rebounds). They will be tasked with a tough Midland team in the playoffs.
For Pebble Hills (18-12, 5-5) and head coach Arturo Escobar, going .500 this season is not so bad when three of your top four scorers are just juniors this season. They will return Elijah Davis, Isaiah Davis and Ethan Moya this year, who are each doing nice things for the Spartans. Their mountain against a strong Tascosa team will be tough to go through, but their has to be some optimism surrounding the program for the future.
Win or go home
For Franklin and Socorro, who are each 3-7 in district play, it will be a single-elimination game for the final playoff spot in 1-6A, as the two will square off on Friday night at Bowie High School.
So it comes down to which team will want it more.
On one hand, you will have the Franklin Cougars, who despite being young, have shown some flashes of greatness this season. Junior guard Roman Garcia is shooting a dazzling 40 percent from 3-point range and leads the team in scoring at 15.2 ppg. There's nothing coach Adam Castillo would want more than for the team to avenge its four-game losing streak with a win and a playoff spot.
But on the other hand, it's been a 22-year drought for Socorro missing the playoffs, per El Paso Time's Felix Chavez, so snapping that long, tiresome streak would be huge for the Bulldogs. They've struggled this year, but beat Franklin late in the season to force this play-in game.
Madness will ensue this weekend, but it should be interesting to see which playoff teams are here to stay and which will be gone right away.