The Flower Mound Jaguars lined up like always and shook their opponents’ hands after winning their first playoff game since 2009 on Tuesday night. They walked back to the locker room where they found out they were playing District 8-5A champion Ellison in the second round.
“Do you know anything about them?” the team asked their coach.
“I sure do. I know them well,” Jason Fossett replied.
After winning six district championships and making seven straight playoff appearances as the head basketball coach at Killeen, Fossett took over at Flower Mound this season and turned around a team that hadn’t had a postseason appearance since 2010 and were picked to finish last in District 5-5A.
“It’s gone way better than expected,” Fossett said. “The goal coming in was to just get the kids to play hard and that was about it. When you come in and try to start something kind of fresh, you’ve got to start with playing hard and trying to play the correct way. The kids bought into it in a hurry — it was a good thing we got some fortunate bounces — and it kind of snowballed from there. Good things kept happening.”
The Jaguars (26-10) play Ellison (28-6) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hillsboro. The Eagles beat Duncanville 51-46 in the first round Monday while Flower Mound, which finished second in District 5-5A with a 7-3 district record, defeated Grapevine 60-55 in their first-round game Tuesday.
The last time Fossett led a team against Ellison, the Runnin’ Roos beat the Eagles 69-68 at Killeen High.
“He’s got a totally different crew from the last time I faced him and my guys are playing a whole lot different than when he faced us,” said Ellison coach Alberto Jones.
“I know what they’re going to do somewhat because he’s done it in the past,” Jones added, “but also because I did some scouting. He’s doing pretty much the same thing he’s been doing.”
Despite the win over Ellison, Fossett’s last season at Killeen pailed in comparison to his first six, when he won six straight 4A district championships. He celebrated his 300th career win in 2011 and was 193-51 overall at Killeen. The Roos went 17-17 overall and 6-4 in District 8-4A in his final season before being named the Flower Mound head coach last May.
The Jaguars’ bi-district win over Grapevine was their first and Fossett’s first playoff win since 2009. Flower Mound lost in the second round that year while Fossett and the Roos reached the regional quarterfinals for the second straight season. Killeen lost three straight first-round games after that.
While the Jaguars are making just their first playoff trip in three years, Ellison is making its 19th straight appearance.
“I think the playoff experience definitely helps Ellison because they’ve been there, but, on the other hand, having not been there before, we don’t even know what we’re involved in,” Fossett said.
“If you’ve never been somewhere before, you really don’t know what’s going on, so there’s really no pressure for us.”
Despite what media were saying about the Jaguars, they won five of their first seven games. They weren’t necessarily convinced of their own potential until a 69-46 win over Southlake Carroll in late November. Carroll was predicted to finish second in District 4-5A.
“We still hadn’t had a win that really stood out and when we went to Southlake Carroll and won like that, I think that was the time the kids started thinking, ‘Hey, we could be good,’” Fossett said.
The Jaguars clinched their playoff berth in the final weeks of the regular season and kept striving for more until finally finishing as the district runner-up.
“The way we see it, we’re playing with house money right now,” Fossett said. “We’re just enjoying being in. We’ve probably far exceeded everyone’s expectations already, so we’re just going to do like we’ve been doing the last several games — we’re going to free-wheel it — because we’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.”