By Jim Irish
The Cedar Creek boys basketball team is on the verge of making history.
The Eagles (6-0) have never tasted victory in a tournament in the school’s 12 varsity years. They knocked on the door last season, losing in the final to Belton 69-55 in the final of their own tournament.
In fact, the basketball team is creating some buzz after a disappointing 0-10 football season
After downing San Antonio Lanier 68-61 and Katy Cinco Ranch 63-58 in overtime on Thursday, Cedar Creek edged host Austin High School 44-43 in the semifinals on Friday.
Those wins set the stage for the championship game against Kerrville Tivy (4-0) at Austin High School at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“They’re a very physical team,” Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell said about Tivy. “They’ll play strictly four zone (defenses). We’ll go over the scouting report and get our guys prepared for it.”
Kenji Franklin, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, continues to be a dominating force for the Eagles. In the contest against Lanier, Franklin achieved a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Robert Conrad, a 5-11 junior point guard, led the team with 24 points, 3 steals, and 4 assists.
Franklin performed even better against Cinco Ranch with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
“Kenji played lights out all game,” Maxwell said. “He carried us.”
Conrad added 12 points and sank 7-of-9 free throws but made only 2-of-15 shots from the floor.
"Kenji played lights out all game. He carried us."
-- Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell
“Sometimes your shot doesn’t go in,” Maxwell said about Conrad. “You’ve got to do something else. (Conrad) struggled, but he brought us home with some free throws in the fourth quarter.”
Against Cinco Ranch, Micah McDonald contributed nine points and nine rebounds, while Bryan Allen chipped in seven points and nine rebounds.
Cedar Creek led Cinco Ranch by three points with less than a minute in regulation but didn’t convert after a steal. Cinco Ranch then hit a step-back 3-pointer to tie it and force overtime. Cedar Creek displayed poise taking the overtime 7-2.
“Our team just showed great resilience,” Maxwell said. “Cinco hit a crazy shot. We bunkered down and understood we were playing better than them.”
Against Austin High, Cedar Creek started slowly, trailing 23-12 at halftime. But the Eagles turned it around in the second, scoring 16 points in both quarters. Maxwell said his team trailed by nine points to start the fourth quarter.
“We played hard, didn’t want to quit, didn’t want to lose,” Maxwell said. “I told the guys, ‘Do everything to keep that zero (losses for the season).’ “
Franklin was the game’s high scorer with 23 points, including 10 in the fourth. He also earned his third double-double with 12 rebounds.
“KJ made the difference,” Maxwell said. “He carried us again.”
Micah McDonald, a 6-2 junior, added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Jim Irish is a freelance writer living in Bastrop, Texas