One of Austin’s coziest gyms at James Bowie High School was host to a capacity crowd in what may well be the city’s best current rivalry between them and Austin Westlake Tonight’s game had special meaning and possible playoff seeding ramifications. Even though Westlake was currently undefeated in District and ranked Top 10 in the State, Bowie was no slouch coming in with a record of 26-4.
It was a big day for us here at Coach Max’s Prep Report as we were at Westlake HS with a film crew earlier in the morning doing an interview with Westlake Coach Tres Ellis and several of his players. The subject of our 1st feature to be webcast in what we hope to be a weekly or bi weekly basketball show was “Westlake’s Potential Run To State”. Coach Ellis was gracious enough to host us on game day (the only time that fit everyone’s schedule) and even though he’s confident about his team was reluctant to look past the encounter with Bowie. FYI, a win or loss in this game doesn’t alter their team goals as it relates to the story. Off camera, Coach Ellis expressed a lot of respect for the Bowie Bulldogs and their veteran Coach “CC” Collier.
Game on! Bowie and Westlake both came out amping it up on the defensive end of the court and despite there being ample offensive talent on the court for both teams the 1st quarter ended 7-4 in Bowie’s favor. The 2nd quarter still found the lid on the basket for the Chaps as they were held to 11 points in that period and Bowie went into the locker room with an 18-9 lead. The Bulldogs were buoyed by a big three at the half time buzzer by 2011 Bowie P 6’4″ Connor Robinson who drifted out to the wing and nailed it to send the crowd into a frenzy. There weren’t too many offensive scoring highlights to speak of in general. Cody Doolin had 7 of the 9 Chaps points as his team mates were totally awol on the offensive end. This was a combination of outstanding Bowie defense and a half dozen missed chippies at the rim.
As these two teams tend to do, it looked like it was going to be a nail biter as through the 3rd quarter and midway through the 4th Austin Westlake clawed back and made it a one point game at 31-30. That’s as close as it got as Bowie dug in, got some great stops and eventually salted it away at the free throw line. This was playoff style basketball, and Bowie excelled. I’m not questioning Westlake’s effort, but it was obvious that on this night Bowie just wanted it more. The Bulldogs seemed to hustle to almost every loose ball on the floor, outrebounding their bigger opponent and rarely wasting a possession with an errant pass or bad shot.
Bowie’s signature matchup zone kept PG Cody Doolin (San Francisco) from penetrating at will. The talented senior did get a game high 17 points, but he worked for every one of them as Bowie’s physical play sent him to the free throw line (8 of his 17 points) rather than let him attack the rim.
Senior night is an emotional time and despite a masterful game plan and it’s execution by Bowie the key may have been a “tray of banana puddin”. Soph PG Paul Baxter did a tremndous defensive job keeping Doolin at bay, while leading his team with 14 points and taking care of the basketball for the typically lengthy Bowie offensive possessions. After the game I was congratulating Papa Ron Baxter on his son’s outstanding effort and a lady came up and handed him a big tray of banana puddin’ that she had promised young Baxter if they pulled off the win. Coach Max, who is currently on a diet started salivating like a rabid dog…lol No wonder that youngster was motivated to turn in a stellar effort.
Bowie was a better team on this night and will head into the playoffs as always being a dangerous matchup for anyone they face. Their likely opponent will be San Antonio Churchill, a big team with a 6’9″ P in Mike Byron (Gardner-Webb) a team who also likes to zone.) Baxter had some help from his friends in this one as 2011 P 6’4″ Connor Robinson showed me big time focus and toughness two games in a row (including last week against Pflugerville). Tonight he had 13 points and 8 rebounds. All came against a much larger Westlake frontline that goes 6’9″, 6’6″ and 6’5″. He simply outworked them all. Accolades also go out to 2010 P Deandre Perry (Houston-football) who had 8 boards of his own.
I caught up with Coach Collier via phone as I was headed home. His voice was hoarse but ever the classy guy his first comments were how much he respected Westlake and that they were deserving of their State ranking. He explained their keys to winning tonight:
1. “shorten the game by lengthening our own possessions, whether it took 5 passes or 25 passes.” CHECK
2. “Work to out rebound the taller Chaps team.” CHECK
3. “Handle Westlake’s fullcourt pressure.” CHECK
I’d say they worked that plan to near perfection…or was it just the banana puddin’? We report, you decide.
Austin Westlake 4-5-16-15-40
Austin Bowie 7-11-13-18
As a personal note of pride, as the Class of 2010’s campaign nears it’s end I was proud to see no less than 7 Texas D-1 Ambassadors alumni on the floor at various times for both of these powerhouses. Special shout outs go to Doolin & W Conner Kemper (Westlake) and Bowie’s Tre Lindsey (Army Prep) & Deandre Perry (Houston-football) & it’s Coach Papa John Lindsey who were members of that great group who won the prestigious Houston Kingwood Classic back to back when it was the country’s top travel ball event. Thanks guys for all the memories!