NACOGDOCHES – For head coach J.J. Johnson and his Palestine Wildcats, their record stands at 0-0.
Despite not being able to clinch their second straight District 19-4A championship, the Wildcats are not treating themselves as a “typical third-seed,” neither is their bi-district opponent, Lufkin Hudson.
Palestine finished 5-3 in district place after ending their conference schedule with back-to-back wins over Rusk and Fairfield. They outscored their final two district opponents 146-62.
“We found some guys we can utilize coming off the bench,” Johnson said. “Our defensive rotations have been good. We're starting to go a little deeper into our rotations.”
The Wildcats played a warm-up game Friday against TABC number-four ranked 2A team Shelbyville. They lost 64-57 but completed their goal of establishing a solid rotation to take with them into the Bi-District round against Hudson Tuesday.
One of the more noticeable changes was the insertion of Keshawn Wilson into the starting point guard role. Wilson was called up from the freshman team and has done “an exceptional job of running the offense.”
Another key to the Wildcats offensive explosion to end the season was the improvement of Dreyon Barrett on the offensive end.
In Palestine's previous two wins, Barrett averaged 13.5 points on 75 percent shooting from the field.
His scoring will be needed against a Hudson team who is 10-0 in neutrally located games this season.
Similar to Palestine, Hudson enters this contest sporting a two-game win streak and has won three of their past four games. Though the Wildcats are the lower-ranked seed, coach Johnson isn't expecting to be treated as such by higher-ranking teams.
“Nobody is overlooking us,” Johnson said. “Many people couldn't believe we finished tied for second. We have to go into the game with the mindset they're throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us.”
Coach Johnson is expecting a fast-paced game from a Hudson team that won't have a traditional lineup on the court. They have the ability to have three or four guards on the floor and execute.
Attacking the rim and establishing an inside presence will be at the forefront of Palestine's gameplan. If they can limit their opportunities to run the floor and get offensive rebounds Palestine holds a great chance of advancing to the next round.
“We preach a lot about being consistent,” Johnson said. “Now they're learning how to be consistent. It doesn't matter if we win by one or 20 as long as we move on to the next round.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Nacogdoches High School Tuesday.