• December 29, 2014

ALLAN MANDELL ON SPORTS Knights ready for 2nd-ranked DeSoto

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Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2014 4:30 am

Now it’s time to go make some school history.

Head coach Celneque Bobbitt and his Harker Heights Knights have made it to the Sweet 16.

On Tuesday night, Heights will travel to University High School in Waco and take on perennial-power DeSoto, the No. 2 ranked team in Texas. One poll has DeSoto ranked No. 21 in America.

“It’s David vs. Goliath,” Bobbitt said. “DeSoto is recognized for its basketball dominance. We’ll have to play our best 32 minutes of the year to beat them. We respect them.”

But the Knights won’t fear Goliath.

With 1:08 to play on Tuesday — in the first round of the postseason — the Killeen Kangaroos trailed DeSoto by just two points.

For 31 minutes, Killeen, the fourth-place team in District 8-5A, and DeSoto were equals.

The district-champion Knights defeated Killeen twice this season, once by 15 points the other by 26.

With a break or two, Killeen could have beaten DeSoto. The caliber of play in District 8-5A has been underrated. Without question, Heights can beat DeSoto.

DeSoto’s 6-foot-7, 210-pound senior power forward, Terry Maston, will be playing at Baylor next season.

Bobbitt respects that. But he’s got a counter plan to Maston and the Knights’ boss has no problem announcing that strategy three days before tipoff.

“Roger Taylor,” Bobbitt said.

It’s not likely Roger Taylor will call Maston “shorty” and “skinny.” But he could. Taylor is 6-foot-8 and weighs 225 pounds.

“I’ll counter the 6-7, 210-pounder with my 6-8, 225-pounder,” Bobbitt said. “Roger is going to Louisiana-Monroe. I know that’s not Baylor but Roger will be a good presence for us on Tuesday. Hopefully, Roger will play defense for us like he has in the past. I want him to make those entry passes difficult.”

DeSoto also plays a 6-foot-10 sophomore center named Marques Bolden.

Bobbitt has an answer for that, too.

“Don’t be intimidated by your opponent’s height,” he said. “My guys won’t be intimidated by that. We know that 6-10 is 6-10. We’ll have our guys make that guy run up and down the court in transition.”

Simply put, Heights will try and run. Bobbitt wants a track meet.

DeSoto wants a slow, dull, watching-paint-dry type of night. DeSoto doesn’t take that many bad shots in the course of a game. Of course they don’t take that many shots at all in a game. They like games in their 40s. The Eagles are patient. It’s not unusual for DeSoto to have a three-minute possession. Their strength is their discipline, and their willingness to play catch for half a quarter if they don’t get the shot they’re looking for.

“We can’t let them play their style of basketball,” Bobbitt said. “Their style is not conducive to us. We don’t want the game in the 40s.”

DeSoto starts three guards and each is quick, composed and talented.

“We must pressure them — all the time,” Bobbitt said. “We’ll be playing man and we’ll be pressuring them. That’s our style: to get in your face. I want us to force the tempo to the fast pace that we like it.”

He’s got the horses to do it. Josh DeLaney, Cameron DeLaney, C.J. Bobbitt, Cody Halvorson and D’Angelo Streeter can get at you like a pack of piranhas.

“My guys are excited for this game,” coach Bobbitt said. “This is the round our school has never gotten past. We’re trying to get into unchartered grounds.”

Bobbitt said Saturday’s practice was excellent.

“I reminded my guys that there are a lot of kids playing ball now,” Bobbitt said. “But almost all of those kids are just playing pickup ball at some gym. We’re one of 16 teams that are still playing organized ball — there’s the difference.”

After Saturday’s practice, Bobbitt was doing some laundry. A chore to some but not to Bobbitt.

“I was washing my players' uniforms today,” he explained. “But I’m washing them because we need to use them again for another game. I wasn’t washing them because I need to hang them up for the season. That’s why I didn’t mind doing the laundry today.”

And he won’t mind doing the laundry again on Wednesday, so long as it’s because his Knights have advanced into the Elite Eight.

And made some school history.

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