Crown on the line

Boys basketball enters final weekend with a chance to win district title

Eyeing+the+rim%2C+Tristan+Ortiz+attacks+on+a+fastbreak+against+Wagner+on+Jan.+22.+Ortiz%27s+11.4+points+per+game+have+put+boys+basketball+in+position+to+push+for+a+playoff+berth.

Tim Tschoepe

Eyeing the rim, Tristan Ortiz attacks on a fastbreak against Wagner on Jan. 22. Ortiz’s 11.4 points per game have put boys basketball in position to push for a playoff berth.

Jackson Posey, Sports Director

Heading into the final weekend, boys basketball sits in 4th place in District 27-6A, and has yet to clinch a playoff spot. Yet due to the chaotic nature of this year’s district, they still have a shot at their first district title in over two decades.

Last year’s 9-5 record marked the team’s best district showing in over a decade, but undefeated Judson put a damper on any hopes of a title run. But this year, the Rockets look a lot more human. And that elusive title of “champion” lies just around the corner.

This season, at least in 27-6A, has been defined by parity. No team will lose double-digit games this year; in 2020, three teams achieved that unfortunate distinction. Additionally, only two teams (Judson and Clemens) have a chance to win at least nine games; four teams did so this past season.

Just two teams have sealed their playoff fates: Judson is in, Steele is out. Everything else is still fair game.

There is a path here for a district title, but it will require great play and better fortune. To ensure a clear victory, the Rangers will need these five things to happen.

1. Win out

Seems pretty self-explanatory. The Rangers still have scheduled games at Steele (Friday) and at Judson (Saturday), and they’ll need to win at least one to secure a postseason berth. But they beat both of these teams by double digits earlier this season, so two wins wouldn’t be entirely implausible.

The Knights are a highly volatile team, one which lost eight of nine games between Jan. 5 and Feb. 5, before ending that streak with consecutive wins over the district’s resident behemoth, Judson. The last time these teams played was Jan. 23; the Rangers won that matchup, 81-62.

The Rockets, meanwhile, ended their three-game skid with a 78-74 road win over Clemens on Wednesday. They only need one more win to clinch a district title … but more on that in a moment.

2. Judson loses out OR inclement weather wins out

The Rockets are 8-4, a noticeable drop from last year’s dominance. But talent offers a long leash, and they need just one more victory to clinch the top seed. Judson has games scheduled for Saturday against Smithson Valley and Tuesday at Wagner. But there’s a problem.

The regular season is sprinting to a close faster than the Thunderbirds can reschedule games – they’ll play a doubleheader Monday before Tuesday’s matchup with Judson. And as many districts postpone or cancel events due to dangerous driving conditions caused by an incoming cold front, the status of this game is again up in the air. (Snow is expected Monday morning, and the high temperature isn’t expected to reach above freezing until Wednesday.)

If the Rangers win out, and the weather forces a cancellation of Tuesday’s game, Judson would finish with an 8-5 record. (Tuesday is the district certification deadline, so they wouldn’t be permitted to delay the game any further.) The Rangers, meanwhile, could finish 9-5, a higher winning percentage by 0.027 points.

3. Clemens loses out

The Buffaloes’ 55-51 win over the Rangers on Wednesday granted them the head-to-head tiebreaker. Now, the only way for Clemens to fall behind the Rangers in the standings is to lose their final two games, at East Central and at Wagner. (The weather caveat applies here as well.)

4. Wagner loses at least once

The Thunderbirds do have three more games scheduled, enough to win the district, but weather and scheduling render that unlikely. They’re scheduled to play three teams in 48 hours, and all of them could credibly have something to play for: they’ll host Clemens on Monday morning, drive over to play South San that night and host Judson on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, the weather could leave them with just 11 games played at season’s end.

5. South San loses at least once (optional)

On Tuesday, Wagner’s coronavirus issues put the Bobcats’ four-game winning streak on hold. With three games left, they still have time to rebound from their 1-5 start to district play, but it’ll be difficult. They’ll travel to New Braunfels on Friday and East Central on Saturday before hosting Wagner on Monday night. They split with the Rangers earlier this season, so a tie in record would lead to another tiebreaking method being implemented. This could be point differential, a coin flip or a tiebreaking game at a neutral site.

The Rangers need seven games to go their way to close out the season, and they only control two of them. Here’s the ultimate rooting guide for fans who want the district title brought back to the Valley:

Tonight’s game at Steele tips off at 7:00 p.m., and tomorrow’s game at Judson begins at 3:30 p.m. Twitter users can follow @ByJacksonPosey and @ValleyVentana for live game coverage, score updates, game analysis and general rambling about the district playoff picture as a whole.