Varsity boys basketball wins District

Aro Majumder

With just three games left in the season, the varsity boys basketball team has clinched the District Championship, with a 12-1 District record. It’s been an impressive run of dominance that has seen them open up a gap of 3.5 games to their nearest competitor, Austin High.

“So far we’ve been happy with the team,” varsity head coach Robert Lucero said. “Record-wise it’s great, but as coaches, you always try to look for how they’re doing on a daily basis and making sure they compete every day in practice. I think even this late in the season, we haven’t peaked yet, so that’s always good for us.”

Peaking at the right time can mean the difference between a deep run in the playoffs and an early exit. As the gruel of the season continues, the Chaps will need to keep up the intensity to succeed.

“There will be some days where we back off in practice,” Lucero said. “On some Wednesdays and Saturdays, we’ll tailor back some of the lengths of our practices and the grind so we’re fresh the day before games.”

With the District Championship already sewn up, it can be difficult to find motivation to continue to practice hard. The team has been able to find inner competition however, and that has kept the intensity up.

“Players are still fighting for playing time,” Lucero said. “We have some good players that could probably start for other teams and are coming off the bench for us. I think that competition drives them.”

The players also realize the importance of staying fresh and keeping the hard work going through to the end of the season. It also doesn’t hurt that they have a little extra motivation from Lucero.

“Coach yells at us if we don’t [practice hard],” guard sophomore Luke Pluymen said. “We all know what we want to do. We don’t want to waste this year by just winning District. We have to make sure we work hard to get to where we want to be — the State Championship.”

Going through a season with just a handful of losses is an impressive feat that requires strong mental and physical strength. However, the depth in the roster has given the team an edge on many of its District opponents in trying to maintain that strength, and it has played a large role in its success.

“The depth of the team has meant that when guys missed games for injuries or football, we’ve still been able to do well,” Lucero said. “We have a bunch of people we can fit into the game when others have injuries, illness, or when they’re playing a different sport, so that’s helped us. Some other teams don’t have the depth, so when one guy goes down the team isn’t as strong, but luckily for us, we have a bunch of guys to fill in.”

For the players, it’s been business as usual, even with the knowledge that they are now the District Champions.

“It’s [still] the same,” Luke said. “We’re happy about District, but we’re focusing on bigger things — focusing on the future. We’re happy, though, for sure.”

With the playoffs approaching fast, confidence is running high among the players that they will be able to have a deep, successful run.

“We’re excited; we think we can go all the way this year,” Luke said. “We just need to keep working hard and make sure we get better every day.”

The team’s title-clinching game ended without too much drama. A comfortable 19-point win over rivals Lake Travis Feb. 2 was enough to get the job done.

“I thought we did a good job at the beginning to jump on them [Lake Travis],” Lucero said. “They like to control tempo and slow the game down, but it’s hard for them to do that when we have the lead. We shot the ball well to start, but in the second quarter we had some really good looks that we just couldn’t hit. Started off the third quarter well, but then we had some layups that we didn’t make and got a little tight, but in the fourth quarter we stretched it out and they had to foul.”

The win also meant that the team finished with a 2-0 record against Lake Travis on the season, which was special for the fans. However, Lucero made it clear that the team tried to steer the focus away from certain games and prepare for all games in a similar fashion.

“Every win to me is the same; you’re just glad to get another victory,” Lucero said. “You try to address every team with the same amount of effort. Just because we are playing a rival school doesn’t mean we’re going to play harder or we’re going to play better. We try to prepare the same way for every game.”

There is still a lot left for the team to accomplish. While a District Championship is a memorable milestone that will take off a bit of pressure for the last stretch of District regular season games, the team will be looking to cap it off with success in the postseason as well. Much of the success can be attributed to Lucero. In just his second season as head coach, the team has managed to steadily improve and is now a top 50 team in Texas, which hasn’t happened since 2010.

“He’s really developed relationships with everybody quickly,” guard junior Joe Palmo said. “I’ve never had a coach who can still be one of your friends off the court — he’s really nice and fun to talk to — but on the court he can also tell you what to do and keep you in line to make sure you’re doing what you have to do.”

The Chaps have two games at home coming up against Lehman Feb. 9 and Anderson Feb. 12 before finishing off the season on the road at Austin High Feb. 16.