FORNEY — John Tyler hits the reset button today, looking to forget an up-and-down regular season and net a third consecutive victory in the first round of the Class 4A state basketball playoffs.
JT opens the playoffs opposite Mansfield Summit. The bi-district contest tips off at 7:30 p.m. at North Forney High School.
"Everything starts over now," first-year JT head coach Cedeno Clark said. "We're going to take it one game at a time and see where that takes us."
The Lions played .500 ball in the regular season, going 14-14. JT ended the regular season with six straight wins, including a six-point victory over state-ranked and district champion Jacksonville in the regular season finale last Tuesday.
The win over then-No. 10 Jacksonville injected confidence into a Lions team yet to take a winning record into a single game this season. The Lions finished second in District 16-4A, breaking a two-year run as district champions. JT holds a 3-2 playoff record the last two years, reaching the area round last year after a trip to the regional quarterfinals in 2011.
Seven members of the basketball team played on JT's state semifinalist football team, a key reason for the Lions' slow start. The Lions avenged their two district losses, including one against Corsicana, to enter the playoffs playing their best since this time last year when they won 21 in a row late in the season with the same core group.
"If we get locked in, take it one game, one quarter, one possession at a time," Clark said, "the sky's the limit to what these guys can do."
Mansfield Summit secured a 10th consecutive postseason berth since the school first opened its doors a decade ago. Summit (17-10) placed third in 15-4A behind state-ranked Arlington Seguin and Mansfield Legacy.
The Jaguars have not only been playoff regulars, but consistent getting past the first round. Since losing in bi-district in 2003, Summit has advanced to the second round or further nine straight years, highlighted by an appearances in the 5A regional semifinals (2004) and 5A regional finals (2007).
The Jaguars employ a defensive brand of basketball, outscoring opponents 53-46 on average. Summit dropped its final two regular season games to Mansfield Legacy and Lancaster. Lovell Cabbil leads the Jaguars in scoring (11.8 points per game), followed by Terrance Hubby (11.4 ppg), Patrick Tshituka (8.7 ppg), Isaiah McFail (6.2 ppg) and Keilyn Nance (5.4 ppg).
The Lions like a faster pace, putting up 56 points per game, and giving up 57. Tyus Bowser, a 6-3 senior forward, tops JT in scoring (18.7) and rebounds (8.8) per game. JT's strength lies with its depth, with the rotation featuring contributors such as 6-2 senior wing Fred Ross (11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds), 6-3 senior wing Keaunte Humber (10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds per game), 6-0 senior guard Greg Ward (9.6 points, 2.0 steals per game), 6-1 sophomore guard Issac Warren (9.4 points, 2.2 steals per game), 5-11 junior guard Jordan Caldwell (8.7 points, 1.9 steals per game) and 6-0 senior wing Darion Flowers (5.8 points, 4.0 rebounds per game).
The only number on JT's mind tonight is 64, the number of teams who will remain following bi-district.
"Everything else is behind us, 14 and 14," Clark added. "Now everybody is 0 and 0."
LIONS' TALES: The winner between John Tyler and Mansfield Summit moves on the area round later in the week to take on Lucas Lovejoy, a 56-33 winner over Hallsville. Class 4A Region II comprises arguably the state's toughest grouping, with the likes of No. 2 Dallas Carter, No. 3 Dallas Lincoln, No. 4 Arlington Seguin, No. 7 Dallas Woodrow Wilson, No. 8 Dallas Kimball, No. 11 Jacksonville and No. 14 Dallas South Oak Cliff. ...Mansfield Summit is located in Arlington and one of five high schools in the Mansfield Independent School District. ...To get to North Forney High School, take Interstate 20 West and merge on to TX-557 in Terrell toward U.S. Highway 80. Continue on U.S. Highway 80 to Forney. Exit on Windell Farms Blvd. and go two miles and turn left on N. Mason St., which runs you into the high school.