CAPTION: Marble Falls junior guard Kody Smith and the Mustangs are District 24-4A’s top seed after head coach Trais Crain won a coin flip Feb. 15. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
The Marble Falls High School boys basketball team will face China Spring in a bi-district championship game to tip off the 2023 Class 4A state playoffs Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The contest will begin at 7 p.m. at Killeen Chaparral High School.
Head coaches of District 24-4A met Feb. 15, a day after the regular season ended, to select the members of the all-district teams. And while they were there, the head coaches of Georgetown Gateway, Lampasas and Marble Falls, which all won a share of the district crown thanks to finishing with 6-4 records, had to decide on which squad would enter as the district’s first, second and third seeds.
“We didn’t want to play a tournament,” Mustangs head coach Travis Crain said. “We (coin) flipped for seedings. I got lucky and won the first flip and got the No. 1 seed. I called heads, they called tails.”
Gateway won the second flip and took the second seed.
The reason for sharing the title is because the Mustangs lost to Jarrell 54-45 in the regular season finale. The Cougars needed to win to finish fourth in the district.
“Credit to them,” Crain said. “They created a great environment. They had to win, and they needed Lampasas to win as well.”
Lampasas beat Burnet 76-67. The Bulldogs officially finished tied for fourth in the district with a 5-5 record. But Jarrell beat them 45-43 Jan. 17 and 44-43 Feb. 3 and took the playoff spot because of the season sweep.
Against Marble Falls, Jarrell played a high-level contest for 32 minutes and led from the start, though the Mustangs tied the game midway through the final stanza.
“I remember thinking ‘their run is over. We’re going to get a stop, we’re going to score,'” Crain said. “In the fourth quarter, (Jarrell) found another gear. They did a great job of keeping us at bay and playing like a team that had its season on the line. Credit to Jarrell. They kept coming.”
Now that the regular season has ended, Crain had a few minutes to recall the beginning, when he called for a meeting in his classroom with his players and staff in October to outline the team goals for the upcoming season. Among them was winning the district championship and advancing to the playoffs.
He said he told the players that every basketball team has the same goals. So how do the Mustangs plan to accomplish theirs? Part of their plan played out during the 51-31 win against Burnet Feb. 10 in a contest that was a battle for first place in the district standings at that time.
“We knew that whoever won that one put themselves in a great position for the postseason,” Crain said. “We wanted it to be us. Win and we’ll have a leg-up at getting in the playoffs.”
The game against China Spring is a rematch of a 56-42 Cougar win in the first game of the Wimberley Holiday Tournament Dec. 28.
“We were coming out of the Christmas break,” Crain said. “They had their football guys. There was some sloppiness for both teams. It’s funny how things worked out. We have a second chance to play them.”
The coach said the ending to the regular season has given the Mustangs extra motivation for the playoffs.
“Sometimes we need reminders of what it takes to win at a high level consistently,” he said. “We’re still very hungry. We still have other things we want to accomplish this year.”
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