5 storylines heading into UIL Boys Playoffs

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Brendan Hausen and Amarillo High open the Class 5A postseason against Lubbock Cooper in the bidistrict round Tuesday night in Dimmitt. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Sandies primed for a run

Amarillo High from the get-go in 2022 has been the team to watch in Region I-5A and has shown the rare ability to embrace the not fair but true tag placed on them all season long called: State Tournament or Bust.

AHS is the defending regional champs and with the nucleus of that team returning has not disappointed.

Under intense and motivating head coach Jason Pillion the Sandies bring a 27-6 overall record to the playoffs, valuable experience from playing in one of the nations top Christmas tournaments, and an impressive undefeated effort in District 3-5A.

No doubt, AHS is led by the big three seniors of Villanova signee 6-foot-4 Brendan Hausen, Southern Illinois signee 7-foot Cade Hornecker and University of Texas-Arlington signee 6-foot-6 Damonze Woods.

Hausen is a thorn in the side of any team he faces. The all-time leading scorer in AHS history is the Sandies floor leader with excellent dribbling and passing skills to go along with his deep shooting range.

Hornecker’s length is a nightmare to opponents trying to score near the basket and his recent aggressive play is routinely producing double-double efforts. Woods already owns the bulk and rebounds like a Division I player.

AHS certainly has others contributing like starting guards senior Xa Landry-Britton and junior CJ Nickerson, along with ever-improving 6-6 junior forward Cooper Pillion and 6-6 sophomore Braden Hausen.

Getting out of region will be no cakewalk with the likes of No. 6 Mansfield Summit (26-5), No. 7 Mansfield Timberview (29-4) and No. 9 Mansfield Legacy (23-8) looming as possible opponents.

But man, AHS is good. Really, really good. And the team to beat Region I-5A. Meaning bringing back the first boys state championship to the Amarillo ISD since 1986 is not out of the question.

— Lance Lahnert

Canyon’s Kemper Jones drives up the floor during a game earlier this year. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

These Eagles could also soar

Around this time of year, it seems like a given that a Canyon High team will be making an extended playoff run, as the Lady Eagles are in their reserved spot in the region quarterfinals again and almost always make it further than that. But keep an eye on their boys counterparts on campus.

Like the celebrated girls program, Canyon’s boys finished 25-5 and went unbeaten in District 4-4A play. And like the girls, the Eagles will open the playoffs by facing Snyder in the bidistrict round. For the second straight year, the Eagles are looking to make it to the region quarterfinals, and have every reason to be more ambitious than that this year.

Canyon is ranked No. 14 in the state, and the Eagles have a balanced enough attack to fly for awhile. Juniors Kemper Jones and Chris Bryant provide inside muscle while seniors Parker Cunningham and Brooks Wagner can score from outside, making Canyon hard to defend.

But Canyon might not be the only 4-4A team primed to be around for a bit. Dumas, who was second in the district and finished 24-6, might surprise some people. — Lee Passmore

Bushland’s Tate Butcher shoots a 3-pointer during a game earlier this year. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]

Will an Amarillo-area 3A team make an impact

Class 3A is the one region in the Texas Panhandle where there is no dominant team.

Childress is the only team ranked in the top 25. The Bobcats (13-16) are one of the most dangerous No. 4-seeds when they open the playoffs against District 1-3A champion Bushland (16-9) on Monday. The Falcons will have their hands full, as will Spearman. The Lynx take on a very talented Tulia squad in bidistrict.

Then there’s Dimmitt. The Bobcats (19-9) have flown under the radar despite being the District 3-3A champion. Head coach Colby Rives has done a superb job, and CJ Willey is one of the top players in the area.

For a Texas Panhandle team to get to the regional tournament, well alone San Antonio, they will have to battle region favorites Shallowater, Wichita Falls City View, Peaster and Brock. — Kale Steed

Clarendon’s Jmaury Davis shoots a jumper against Alpine during the Randall Playoff Preview on Friday. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Can Clarendon go back-to-back

This isn’t exactly an unfamiliar position for the Broncos heading into the postseason.

The defending UIL Class 2A state champion know a big target is on their back, and await the challenge from anyone in the way to make another trip to San Antonio’s Alamodome.

Clarendon is ranked No. 2 in the state with a 24-2 mark, blistering every team in District 2-2A. Having big expectation is something that’s become expected under second-year coach Boston Hudson, who is a mind-boggling 51-6 during his time with the Broncos.

Clarendon has all the pieces necessary to make another trip to the state tournament. Junior forward Jmaury Davis, who has committed to play football at Texas Tech, has only gotten better, and senior point guard Lamarcus Penigar is a matchup nightmare with his speed and ability to shoot from the perimeter.

While the Broncos are a heavy favorite to represent Region I, is there a team that can stand in their way. No. 14 Gruver is a most likely matchup in the third round. The Greyhounds (23-8) nearly pulled the upset of the Broncos, falling 54-53 in a non-district matchup in early January.

No. 6 New Home (21-4) will be in the mix, No. 12 Olton (29-3) is another squad to keep an eye on as is No. 11 New Deal (24-6). — Kale Steed

Texline coach Coby Beckner directs traffic during a game earlier this season. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Is Texline destined to repeat

Headed into the season, the big question looking was whether Texline could repeat its state title prowess a year ago.

So far the answer has been a resounding yes. The Tornadoes are 28-3 overall with their only losses coming to Class 2A No. 2 Clarendon, No. 6 New Home, also from Class 2A, and Class 5A playoff team, Palo Duro. Led by their talented 6-foot-4 senior duo of William Luther and Noel Lozano, Texline provides a difficult matchup for most schools in their class. Luther, an uber talented wing who can dominate inside or out, has averaged a double-double on the season, while Lozano’s nimble feet and smooth post moves gives head coach Coby Beckner a potent inside-outside combination.

However, one could argue that the Tornadoes are better than last year’s title team. Junior Elias Espino has become a legitimate third scoring threat. The sharp-shooter scores in double figures most nights and has become a scary threat behind the arc. Add in a rotation that goes four deep and it’s no surprise many expect them to repeat.

If the Tornadoes fall before state it could be at the hands of district rival Nazareth. The Swifts (21-12) played Texline to within six points earlier in the year. Jayton and Springlake-Earth could also mount a challenge. — Craig Sperry

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