Sports > Schools
Lobos fall to Azle in 4A playoff debut
BY ANDREW MAY, Staff Writer
When the chips were in the center of the table, the Little Elm boys basketball team was drawing dead.
In position to knock off favored Azle on Tuesday in a Class 4A Region I bi-district playoff game, the Lobos fell flat in the third quarter and had the rug swept out from under them. The Hornets pushed all-in after halftime and caught Little Elm napping to pull away for a 68-41 victory in Decatur.
District 6-4A champ Azle mounted a 19-3 run in the third period and coasted from there behind the supersized play of post Joe Richards. The senior deposited 26 points and helped keep Little Elm big men Chris Burks and Clifton Murphy in check.
Holding a four-point lead at the intermission, the Hornets turned to a 2-3 zone in the second half to stymie the Lobo attack. Though Little Elm prepared for the defensive look in practice, the execution simply wasn’t there.
“We knew what defense they were going to run, we worked on things, the problem is we just didn’t do it correctly. When they got into the zone, we got in a hurry and didn’t take real good shots,” LEHS head coach Jimmy Arendt said. “When you don’t take good shots against good defensive teams, you’re going to get one shot and it’s going to stop.”
Little Elm, the fourth-place team out of 5-4A, played well in the first half. Competing in his final high school game, Burks scored six points in the opening quarter, but was good for only one point the rest of the way. Freshman Devonte Pullum pumped in a dozen in the first half, but was quiet in the second.
The third quarter was the real doozy for the Lobos, who shot 1-of-12 in the frame. It dropped the shooting percentage down to 39 percent for the game.
“We didn’t take very good shots at times. We didn’t get the ball to people that were carrying us a little bit,” Arendt said. “Instead of taking our time, we rushed and took bad shots. When you play good teams, the game is going to be over with real fast.”
And it was. Azle (27-4) closed out with an 18-11 spurt in the fourth quarter and shot 59 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the free throw line on the night. Pullum was the only Lobo to finish in double figures, while Richards and Drew Charles combined for more points than the entire Little Elm team.
“They were very good. What I like about them is they didn’t make mistakes and everybody played together,” Arendt said of Azle. “When you play good teams like that, you’ve got to play perfect. We were faster, but they were better disciplined, better shooters and worked better as a group.”
Richards continually got the looks he sought. Entry passes were lobbed over the fronting defender and backside help rotated over too late.
“He was a lot quicker and more aggressive than our posts,” Arendt said. “They got after us, made adjustments and our adjustments weren’t as good.”
Little Elm, which was making its first playoff appearance in Class 4A, will have to regroup next season without the services of Burks, Murphy and starting guard T.J. Birdie. Pullum and fellow freshman Biron Joseph, who broke his wrist during district play against Denton Guyer, will represent the starting backcourt for the next three seasons. Arendt is also expecting solid production and leadership from junior Darryl Demesme, as well as the trio of sophomores that came off the bench this season in Lamont West, Bryan Owens and Michael Blanchette.
“If the kids keep working hard,” Arendt said, “we’ve got a chance to get there again.”