In their second consecutive playoff appearance, the Aledo Bearcats basketball team will face Lubbock Monterey in a Class 5A, Region I bi-district playoff game.
Tip off is at 6 p.m. today at Anson High School.
The Bearcats finished District 4-5A play with a 4-4 record to earn the district’s second seed in the playoffs as the second-place finisher. Monterey (21-13) is the third seed from District 3-5A.
The winner will advance to the area championship (second) round and face state-ranked No. 14 El Paso Andress, a winner Monday in its opening-round playoff game.
Bearcats first-year head coach Jamon Copeland said District 4-5A play prepared his team for the rigors of the playoffs.
“Our district was so competitive, coming down to the last district game to decide seeding,” Copeland said. “Like any team, we tried to play to our strengths in order to try and maximize our success. We are excited.”
Copeland feels the strength of his team is team attitude. He also feels team defense will be a key to a victory in Anson.
“Our biggest strength is that we have great kids who come from great families that really try to do everything we ask,” he said. “Our care factor is really high. When you watch us play, that becomes evident right away in how we compete on every possession and the passion we play with.
“When you get a group of guys that are high character and really care good things tend to happen. Our varsity finished second in district and our JV won the district championship.
“Another strength of ours is our collective length. We don’t have a traditional big like a lot of teams but we do have good collective length at positions 2-5 (6’3” – 6’5”). Our length makes us really tough to score on when we can get our defense set.
“Our guys’ intelligence also enables them to do a really good job taking away opponents strengths. They do a good job sniffing out what is coming and making them try to beat us with their third or fourth options instead of options No. 1 and No. 2.”
Copeland feels Monterey’s strengths are athleticism and defensive pressure.
“Lubbock Monterey is not big but they are extremely athletic and play a style that fits their personnel perfectly,” Copeland said. “Offensively, they want to score in the first seven seconds of the possession, really using their athleticism to get out in the open court and make plays in space.
“Defensively, they primarily play man, applying a ton of ball pressure at your point of attack. Their focus is to not let you run your offense with their ball pressure and denials and make you go make plays 1 on 1.
“The game will be decided by who can impose their style on the game. If the game is up and down, in the 60’s or more, the advantage goes to Monterey. If the game is a grind it out, deliberate half-court game, the advantage goes to us.
“Offensively,” he continued, “we have to help our defense out by taking care of the ball and not letting them get out in transition by turning it over or taking quick contested shots. We need to try and wear them down offensively, make them guard multiple sides of the floor, play with great habits, and wear them down by constantly attacking the rim off of cuts.”
Copeland said it is the “little things” that can help win a tight playoff game.
“Every possession will be huge,” he said. “It sounds simple but we have to do a great job on the things we have control of. We have to take care of the ball, get to the free throw line more than our opponent, rebound 85 percent of their misses, and make them take tough shots over the top of us. If we can do that, I like our chances.
“Defensively, getting back in transition and making them play against a set defense will be huge for us. Once we do that, we have to make them play over the top of us, really shrinking the court and taking away any space where they can utilize their athleticism.”
Copeland feels his team is where he wants it at this stage of the season.
“My only goal for this team throughout the year was that we tap out our potential, whatever that ends up being,” he said. “When our season comes to an end, we want to have no regrets, knowing that we gave everything we had to become the best team that WE were able to become.
“Right now we are still in the process of trying to live regret free. We have to deserve the outcome we want to have by the way we practice, prepare, eat, sleep, lift, etc.…I love our team but we are still pushing to deserve the outcome we want to have (today).
“Our guys are going to have an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives – that is what gives our staff the most joy in this run!”