Tough District + Playoff Route Prepared Douglass for Class A Division II State Tournament
Finding a team at this weekend's UIL boys state basketball tournament that maneuvered a more difficult road to its classification's final four than Douglass would be difficult.
Coach Mark Leuschner guided the Indians out of what may be the state's toughest district: 25-A Division II. Four games later, the Indians (29-6) play Water Valley (33-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a Class A Division II state semifinal at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
Four teams from 25-A D-II were ranked most of the season in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class A D-II poll: Douglass, Oakwood, Laneville, and Chireno.
The final TABC regular-season poll had Douglass ninth, Oakwood 10th, and Laneville 16th. The odd team out -- of the poll and the playoffs -- was Chireno, which missed the postseason after losing a district playoff game against Laneville for the final spot.
"I was kinda worried about just being worn out. The level of competition, you had to be ready every night," Leuschner said. "It's encouraged us to make sure we're ready."
Douglass started district 0-2 with losses to Kennard (43-42) and Chireno (72-54) and stood at 2-3 after a 60-51 loss to Oakwood. But the Tribe recovered, and ever since, Douglass has rolled.
The Indians have won 12 consecutive games, including 11 by at least 11 points. In that span, Douglass' average victory margin is 19.4 points per game.
While Laneville and Chireno tied in the regular season for the final 25-A D-II playoff spot, Oakwood and Douglass tied for the No. 1 seed after splitting their regular-season series. Instead of playing for it, they flipped, but there was a catch. Neither team wanted the No.1 seed.
"I think the big fear for both of us was Calvert, the defending state champions. The winner of the flip was gonna try to avoid them," Leuschner said. "We ended up going in the first-place hole and played Calvert in the regional quarterfinals and got by them. Then we figured it would probably be Oakwood in the regional finals."
Douglass avenged its nine-point loss to Oakwood later in district with a 55-52 win, but saved its best against the Panthers for last. Douglass notched a 69-58 regional championship win in New Braunfels to secure the program's first state tournament berth.
The unprecedented run through the postseason doesn't surprise Leuschner and his players.
"(The players) are not cocky by any stretch, but they know they can play with anybody. We purposely beefed up our schedule this year and played some quality bigger schools," Leuschner said. "We were very competitive in a couple of those. We competed so we knew we could play with anybody. Beating Calvert was huge, but we never doubted that could beat them. It was just a matter of doing it."
Douglass has leaned on senior Reed Westbrook and junior Bryce Westbrook -- an all-state and all-region pick, respectively, a year ago -- but Leuschner said he's gotten quality contributions from his entire roster.
"Reed and Bryce, they are pretty much the leaders of our team, but I've got some great role players that step in and play their roles," Leuschner said. "I've got a couple of post players that are big, strong and rebound well. It's just a good combination."
The tough road appears to be more of the same for Douglass in Austin. Water Valley finished the regular season ranked No. 2. If the Indians can win their Friday evening state semifinal, they'll play Roxton or Texline -- teams ranked No. 1 and No. 7, respectively, in the final TABC poll.
Leuschner sees similarities between his team and Friday's opponent.
"Water Valley's a lot like us. They're not gonna have great athletes, and we don't have great athletes," he said. "But they're fundamentally sound and play defense and take care of the ball and take good shots."
Douglass This Season
Teams Ranked in Final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Polls
- No. 15 Princeton (3A) -- L, 62-56
- No. 5 Cayuga (1A D-I) -- W, 72-66
- No. 16 Laneville (1A D-II) -- W, 59-55
- No. 10 Oakwood (1A D-II) -- L, 60-51
- No. 16 Laneville (1A D-II) -- W, 59-46
- No. 10 Oakwood (1A D-II) -- W, 55-52
- No. 5 Calvert (1A D-II) -- W, 50-37
- No. 18 Menard (1A D-II) -- W, 61-34
- No. 10 Oakwood (1A D-II) -- W, 69-58