Shoemaker returned Javon Levi, Devyn Brewton and Antoine James to the floor this season, but it takes more than three standouts to comprise a successful basketball team.

The Grey Wolves had many questions lingering when their season began, but it’s safe to say those questions have been answered.

Shoemaker (26-6, 13-1 District 8-6A) won its third straight league title in 2016-17, its second consecutive outright crown, and won 13 district games in a row after falling 54-50 to Ellison on Dec. 16 to open 8-6A play.

“It feels great just to see where these kids came from, from Day 1,” Grey Wolves head coach Emund Prichett said. “On the back of our warmup shirts, it says, ‘Embrace the process.’ They’ve really took to that, and those kids have stepped up every Tuesday and Friday.”

While the Grey Wolves needed many other players to step up this year, being able to rely on three seasoned veterans in Levi, Brewton and James certainly helped Shoemaker adjust to the newcomers and return to the pinnacle of the league.

“The sacrifices they have made throughout the year have been totally tremendous,” Prichett said. “Without those sacrifices, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in. They all went home this summer, got better and improved their individual skill.

“Me as a coach, trying to think about the team, I asked them to sacrifice a little bit of their individual skill. They all bought into it, made it happen and led these young guys in a tremendous way.”

Up and down their roster, the Grey Wolves have improved throughout the season.

Six-foot-7 post J’wan Roberts developed into a force underneath the basket. The sophomore has defended the rim with authority, and he has also become a reliable target on the offensive end.

Guards Christopher Barnett, Duwain Thomas, Tavon McCorvey, Maurice Berry and Taveon Sevaaetasi have solidified roles as reliable perimeter players, and Romeo Postell and Te’Ayveon Hill offer help inside, too.

There were some growing pains, however, and perhaps the most arduous experience for Shoemaker was its district-opening loss against the Eagles. But rather than lament their defeat, the Grey Wolves used it as fuel.

Prichett said that is when the team really clicked.

“The Ellison game really opened up our eyes – even my seniors,” Prichett said. “We realized we can’t just walk in and win a district game just because we’re Shoemaker. Just taking that loss and feeling that feeling, and I hadn’t lost a district game in a long time, we were all feeling the same way.

“But just being able to take that loss and having a couple days to let it soak in, those guys realized they didn’t want to have that feeling again. That gave us a burning fire every Tuesday and Friday.”

And the development of their youth pushed the Grey Wolves to another level.

“Those young guys really, really stepped up,” Prichett said. “They started really listening to my seniors and listening to the entire coaching staff, and they really started playing relaxed and playing their ballgame. We lost several kids last year, and we didn’t really know what kind of team we would be this year.

“Those young guys earned their spots, and not only that but they got in there and fought for playing time – for an opportunity to play. I’m really proud of those guys. I know we had some very tough practices earlier in the year, but those guys have come a long way.

“They continue to work hard and continue to play confident, and I’m proud of them.”

Now, it is on to the next chapter.

Shoemaker will face South Grand Prairie in the bi-district round of the postseason next week. A time and place had yet to be determined at press time.

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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