Sports > Schools
Boys basketball: Hebron gunning for that No. 1 spot: District 5-5A title "up for grabs"
With reigning back-to-back state and four-time defending district champion Marcus in a rebuilding phase, the window is finally open for Hebron's boys basketball team to claim their first district title since moving up to Class 5A.
Early on, the Hawks are showing they are more than capable of pulling off the feat.
Hebron enters Friday's District 5-5A opener against Flower Mound as the No. 8 ranked team in the state and is off to the best start in program history at 21-2.
The Hawks are also looking to build off a 2011-12 campaign that saw the squad reach the third round of the playoffs.
"In the past, we never didn't talk about winning a district title," said Mark Bishop, Hebron head coach. "That's always a goal and is something that you always want to dangle out there. It's definitely a goal again this year and I think the kids are showing what it takes to become a champion. We've won a couple tournaments early and are kind of testing the water and showing how good of a team we can be. A few years ago, we had a 28-6 season and I definitely think we can reach that."
One reason for Hebron's optimism is the return of all-district guard Ridge Shipley, who has led the Hawks in scoring this year at 20-plus points per game and recently signed with Cal-Poly.
"Ridge has a very good understanding of what is happening on the court," Bishop said. "He has quick reactions and is a strong player mentally. His ball-handling has always been strong and he is a good leader to go along with his great shooting."
Senior Jeff Hicks starts at shooting guard for Hebron.
"He's had a good year," Bishop said. "He is 5-foot-9 but does a good job of rebounding for a guard and he makes a lot of plays for us on both ends of the court."
Backing up Shipley at point is junior Jeremy Hicks.
"Jeremy does a nice job and is very talented," Bishop said. "He's kind of the next in line there. We're getting good guard play right now and at the high school level that is always important. We're not turning the ball over and they're running the offense."
Chad Rehfuss, another guard, is Hebron's sixth man.
"He's really stepped up and does a lot of different things for us," Bishop said.
Hebron's second leading scorer has been sophomore forward Tyler Williams, who also leads the club in rebounding. Junior Chase Mortenson provides additional size up front.
"Mort has been having a good, solid season," Bishop said. "He and Tyler have been very consistent. After Ridge and Tyler, we've had any one of three or four guys that are capable of scoring double figures. Right now, we're still not as balances as we need to be, but we're moving in the right direction."
Six-foot-eight sophomore Connor McClenaghan mans the center position with support off the bench from junior LaRandall Scroggins.
"Connor has kind of been up-and-down but that can be expected for such a young kid," Bishop said. "But he offers us a lot in the interior in terms of scoring and defense. This is the first time in a while we've had a true big man playing center."
Alex Le provides Hebron with hustle plays, while the athleticism and length of James Williams provides the Hawks with a strong defensive presence. Gavin Buford provides more depth and is still "finding his sea legs" after transitioning from football.
"He brings us toughness and physical play and we can use him in a lot of different situations," Bishop said.
Rounding out the roster is Ryan Sherrod, who Bishop described as one of the squad's most capable perimeter shooters.
"He's our zone buster," Bishop added. "We have nice depth and usually play around nine or 10 guys each game. But it's really all just about how the game is playing out and what our opponent is doing."
While the Hawks have an abundance of talent and have suffered just two losses so far, they know there is still room to grow.
"One of the things we have talked about is getting to the free throw line more," Bishop said. "We've kind of been up-and-down there but our opponents have been getting to the line more than we have.
"And rebounding is always a key to success. We've done a good job defensively, but I would like to see improvement and more production on the offensive end. We're also working a lot on the little details of a game; where we need to be in our defensive rotations and things like that. Stuff that is more about how we are performing as a team and not individual things."
For Hebron to win a district title, they will have to do so in a district that features Coppell, Denton Ryan, Flower Mound, Lewisville and Marcus. Three of those programs (the Cowboys, Jaguars and Marauders) feature first-year head coaches.
"I've gotten a chance to see everyone play at least once and we're always compiling video and stats and scouting reports," Bishop said. "I know we are the top team record-wise right now, but I think it's going to be wide open. It looks like all of the teams in the district have been improving as the season has gone along.
"Coppell has a few losses but a lot of their losses have been against very tough competition. I haven't seen Lewisville a bunch, but I know they're an athletic team that was pretty young last year and is starting to mature. Marcus is a tough defensive team that is young, too, and I've seen Flower Mound play three or four times and they're playing well."
The Hawks kick off district at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they host Flower Mound.
Hebron was coming off a first-place performance last Friday-Saturday at the Tommy Thomas Cougar Classic hosted by The Colony. It was the third consecutive season Hebron has taken the tournament and second tourney this year the Hawks have won (C-FB ISD Tourney).
On Dec. 28, Hebron opened the tourney with wins over Garland (60-30) and Pearland (55-51) before topping Newman Smith Dec. 29 in the semifinals (62-59). Later in the finals, the Hawks comfortably defeated Austin, 73-57.
"Pearland was a very good test for us," Bishop said. "They're an athletic team kind of similar to a team like Berkner. And Smith played well, too, and brought a lot of energy."
Hebron trailed the Trojans at halftime but rallied to take a lead as large as 12 in the fourth quarter.
Shipley and Williams paced Hebron's offense with 19 points apiece. Williams also led the team in scoring against Pearland (20), while Shipley scored a game-high 28 points in the finals against Austin en route to MVP honors for the tournament. Williams was selected to the all-tournament team as well.
"The kids played well and did a lot of good things," Bishop said. "But we still have to clean up a few things to get ready for district."