Lometa’s timing is impeccable.
After a bumpy start to the season, the young Hornets, who sport eight underclassmen on their roster, began coming together as a team in December. Now, halfway through its District 28-1A, Division II schedule, Lometa is arguably the hottest team in the area, winning its last five games by an average of 41.8 points.
While Hornets head coach Aaron Nuckles is thrilled his team is solidifying at an ideal time, when looking at the big picture, he actually believes his players are ahead of schedule.
“Some of these kids are playing their first real big minutes of high school basketball,” he said. “We knew there would be a big learning curve there, but now some of these freshmen and sophomores are playing like they are juniors and seniors.”
As a result, Lometa mowed through its district opponents, averaging 80 points per game, with last Tuesday’s 89-26 victory against Evant marking the Hornets’ most points scored in a game under Nuckles, who is in his third season with the program.
Ironically, Nuckles attributes his team’s defense for the surge in offense.
Lometa produced at least 18 steals in each of its district victories, tallying a season-high 33 steals in an 87-37 victory at Star before finishing with 32 against the Elks in its following game.
“Our defensive tempo is up a lot,” Nuckles said. “If you look at the numbers, our steals correlate with how many points we score per game. The more steals we get, the more points we score because of those transition breaks.”
Over the past few weeks, the Hornets’ offensive output has increased dramatically. Ranked 19th in the current Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Class 1A, Division II poll, Lometa is averaging 21.7 more points in district than it did over the first 15 games of the season.
The additional offense has allowed the Hornets to evenly distribute the scoring with three players — Pedro De Luna, Shane Stone and Eric Nichols — leading the team in scoring during the past four games. Additionally, at least four players have produced double figures in each of the last three games.
Lometa (15-5, 5-0) will look to extend its streak tonight against Jonesboro, which provided the closest game of any district opponent, losing by 30 points, 69-39, prior to Christmas. Since then, the scores have only grown more lopsided, reaching a crescendo one week ago with its 63-point victory against Evant.
With a pair of 30-point victories sandwiched around three games decided by a total of 158 points, the Hornets have yet to encounter any resistance in district, but Nuckles believes that could change.
“It will be real interesting (against Jonesboro) because this is the second time around through district,” he said. “How are those other teams going to play us? Are they going to change things? Are we going to see some box-and-one sets? Are they going to press less?
“But I think that will be good for the kids because every game starts off 0-0, and we’ve still got to go out and win each one quarter by quarter.”
The next time a district opponent puts up a fight, however, will be the first time, and while Nuckles would not mind being in a tight contest to help prepare his team for similar situations in the playoffs, his focus is simply on improving.
“I’m not going to complain about a 30-point win,” he said. “Right now, we are just trying to do the best we can, and if that means winning by 30, then we’ll win by 30.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org