Robert E. Lee basketball coach Alan Johnston breaks down his team’s season into five tournaments.
The first three are already complete with REL giving a strong showing at the Lindale Hoop Heaven and Forney Tournament while winning the Suddenlink Dragon Classic.
Next up is the District 11-5A tournament, which consists of 10 round-robin games. The top four teams advance to the fifth and final tournament that determines the overall 5A champion.
Game 1 of that round-robin tournament is today with Lee playing Mesquite Horn at 7 p.m. at REL Varsity Gym.
“The ultimate goal for every team in the state of Texas is to make it into that postseason tournament,” Johnston said. “We are about to play our fourth tournament of the year. We throw the first three out the window. Everything every team has done up to this point; congratulations, and now that season is over.”
The Red Raiders began the season with high expectations despite having not made the playoffs since 2007 and forced to replace seven graduated players. Through 21 games, Lee has met those expectations with a 15-6 record, despite playing just once at home.
“These guys are pretty good at defense and doing the little things that don’t show up in the box score,” Johnston said. “We rebound, we block out, we defend, we don’t turn the ball over and presses have not bothered the team this year. That is credit to our senior guards Jarrod Coleman and Even Tomlinson. And we’ve got Taylor Tankersley, who can put the ball in the basket.”
Tankersley enters district leading the team with 15.1 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. Coleman is averaging 11.4 points per game with a team-high 56 steals while Tomlinson is scoring 10.9 points per contest.
Lee faces a Mesquite Horn team that sports a 12-7 record and is 3-3 in its last six games, averaging 65 points. The Red Raiders lost to the Jaguars in double-overtime last year in their season opener at Mesquite.
REL is giving up just 41.9 points per game this season.
“If we can contain them defensively, I am not worried about our team on the offensive end,” Johnston said.
Defending district champion DeSoto (19-4) enters as the clear favorite to repeat. The Eagles are led by junior Matt Jones, a Duke commit. Johnston said DeSoto is one of many teams REL will have face in what he still believes is one of the best districts in Texas.
“Longview has a tremendous amount of athletic ability and size, Mesquite Horn is loaded with four prolific scorers, Mesquite is (always good) and North Mesquite is a very talented, athletic basketball team that has competed very well (in pre-district),” Johnston said.
RAIDER RAP: The district records for 11-5A teams entering today are: DeSoto (19-4), Lee (15-6), Mesquite Horn (12-7), Mesquite (11-8), North Mesquite (8-11) and Longview (8-8).