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Cedar Creek's dream season ends in area round against Killeen Shoemaker

Updated: Feb 25

Cedar Creek's Kenji Franklin (21) leaps high against the tight defense by Shoemaker's Greg Dumas

By Jim Irish

Photos by Dustyn Werner

Nine times from the end of the first half until one minute remaining in the fourth quarter Cedar Creek was within one point of Killeen Shoemaker.

The Wolves (29-8) would extend their lead to three points or more, but the Eagles — with a large, boisterous crowd in support — would narrow it to one point. Time after time.

"I'm proud of them. They left it out on the court."

-- Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell

But Cedar Creek was unable to surmount that final hurdle in a 59-56 loss in the area round at Taylor High School on Friday.

”I’m proud of them,” Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell said after the contest. “They left it out on the court.”

Cedar Creek's Robert Conrad rises for a jump shot against Shoemaker's D'Rayvion Starling

Despite the loss, the dream season ended with several highlights:

  • First Cedar Creek team in school history to win a state playoff game — against McCallum in bi-district;

  • First Cedar Creek team to win 20 games in a season (25-11);

  • Second Cedar Creek team to advance to the playoffs;

  • First Cedar Creek player — guard Robert Conrad — to sign a college scholarship (San Antonio Trinity University).

“This has been an amazing season,” said Maxwell, whose wife gave birth to their first child, a son, Micah, the previous week. “I told them they are forever going to be the group that everyone is going to try to emulate.”

"I told them they are forever going to be the group that everyone is going to try to emulate."

-- Maxwell

Phineas Koplin’s 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining in the third quarter narrowed Shoemaker’s lead to 42-41.

Koplin’s three was the only one of the contest for the Eagles, which finished 1-of-15 from long range. Cedar Creek had shot 30% all season from long range. It made a difference in the outcome.

Franklin (right) spins away from Jaymes Brown-Peterson

Meanwhile, Shoemaker had a higher accuracy, connecting on 4-of-14 from the outside stripe.

Leland Washington’s reverse layup pulled Cedar Creek within 53-52 at the 5:12 mark in the fourth quarter.

In the next two minutes, Koplin committed a turnover, and Kenji Franklin missed a three from the top of the key.

Between these two plays, Shoemaker’s D’Rayvion Starling thrust a dagger, scoring on an offensive putback for a 55-52 advantage.

Cedar Creek guard Robert Conrad drilled a 15-footer to again close to one.

But Starling, who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, stepped up again, hitting a short jumper that spun around the rim before dropping through the cords with 55 seconds left.

“Both teams really wanted to win,” Maxwell said. “It seemed like it was (Shoemaker’s) night.”

The start was a nightmare for Shoemaker. Cedar Creek jumped to an 8-0 lead during which the Wolves were reeling.

"We preach to the guys: 'We is greater than me.' "

-- Shoemaker coach Karron Taylor

Shoemaker coach Karron Taylor called a timeout and settled his team. They rallied and trailed 15-14 at the end of the first quarter.

“We preach to the guys: ‘We is greater than me,’ ” Taylor said. “The guys’ energy level was too high. I always tell the kids, ‘Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.’ We were just too excited.”

In his final game for Cedar Creek, Conrad scored 21 points, including 7-of-10 from the free throw line, but committed four turnovers.

"He had grit, willpower. ...We tried to take the ball from him, but that didn't work."

--Taylor about Conrad

Conrad made an impression on the Shoemaker coach.

”He had grit, willpower,” Taylor said about Conrad. “He was determined, and we weren’t very disciplined (guarding him). We tried to take the ball from him, but that didn’t work.”

Conrad on the dribble against Shoemaker's Trey Walker

Franklin, the 6-foot-5 junior, also scored 21 points and earned a double-double with 10 rebounds. He also had three assists.

Forward Leland Washington played his supporting role well with four points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Senior Micah McDonald was hampered early by foul trouble and committed his fifth to exit the game with about six minutes remaining. Playing only 23 minutes, he scored five points with one rebound, below his averages of 8 points and six rebounds a game.

”You gotta play through it,” McDonald said about the foul trouble. “The game didn’t go our way.”

He looked back at his final season with satisfaction.

”We all got better throughout the season,” he said. “I feel we accomplished something that’s never been done before.”

Shoemaker’s DJ Moore, a 6-foot sophomore with a muscular build, proved troublesome for Cedar Creek and was the game’s high scorer with 28 points. He excelled at driving into the lane and pulling up for the jump shot. He also nailed 3-of-4 3-pointers.

“He dedicated himself to work hard last spring in the weight room,” Taylor said about Moore. “He came back a much improved player.”

Jaymes Brown Peterson, a 6-5 senior, kept Shoemaker close in the first quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 points.

Shoemaker faces District 22 rival Waco University in the regional quarterfinals.

Jim Irish is a freelance writer in Bastrop, Texas

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