Now that the dust has settled from the playoff battle royal that was the District 8-5A boys basketball season, the attention now turns to an even bigger hurdle looming in the distance for the teams that remain.
In the opening round of the playoffs, 8-5A teams will face off against four teams from one of the stiffest districts in the state.
District 7-5A boasts not one, but two top-five teams in No. 2 DeSoto and No. 5 South Grand Prairie, the Class 5A state runner up last season.
Not only did South Grand Prairie fail to win its district this year, it didn’t even finish as the runner-up. Duncanville nabbed the second playoff seed in the district during the last week of the regular season.
The district of perennial powers, on the girls and boys sides, boasts legitimate state title contenders as the District 8-5A girls learned Wednesday.
District 7-5A unceremoniously swept 8-5A in bi-district, which believe me, says more about 7-5A than 8-5A.
The 8-5A boys will try to avoid the same fate next week, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Last season, district champion Ellison was the only 8-5A team to win a bi-district game, defeating Duncanville 51-46.
Yet there is also an underrated storyline to this in that it wasn’t easy for 7-5A teams in bi-district last season either.
South Grand Prairie edged Harker Heights 35-30, and Cedar Hill scraped by Shoemaker 42-38. Later in the playoffs, South Grand Prairie narrowly defeated an 8-5A team again when it beat Ellison 45-44.
After nearly upsetting a team that reached the state title game last season, Ellison and Heights entered this season eager to return to that point and make amends for missing a golden opportunity in 2013.
The Eagles won’t have the chance after missing the playoffs for the first time in 19 years.
Heights, however, will after winning the district title outright Tuesday.
Unlike Ellison, Heights returned many of its key pieces from last season, a big reason the Knights were keen on going deeper in the playoffs this year.
But like the rest of District 8-5A, the first test will be one of the most difficult for the Knights as they face Cedar Hill for a second time this season.
The first time the teams met, Heights pulled out a 69-65 victory at the Austin Westlake Holiday Classic in December.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Knights head coach Celneque Bobbitt raved about how there was a playoff atmosphere in the gym and how he was happy the Knights got a chance to play a potential playoff opponent.
Bobbitt was right, and now the Longhorns stand in the Knights’ way of a long playoff run.
With a record of 25-4, the No. 11 Knights have responded to nearly every challenge they’ve faced this season.
Now, like the rest of the playoff teams in District 8-5A, they’ll prepare to face what may be their biggest one yet.
Only for 8-5A teams, it comes in round one of the playoffs.