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Cedar Creek's Maxwell looking to shift from 'Good to great'

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Cedar Creek head basketball coach Valentino Maxwell emphasizes a motto of "Good to great"

By Jim Irish

Photos by Dustyn Werner

Cedar Creek boys basketball team downed Class 6A Akins 66-49 at home on Tuesday for its fifth consecutive victory, but head coach Valentino Maxwell observed areas for improvement.

“We didn’t play very well today,” Maxwell said. “I believe we turned the ball over too much.”

Indeed, Cedar Creek committed 21 turnovers compared to Akins’ 11. Even smooth point guard Robert Conrad had the ball stolen in the Eagles’ backcourt for an Akins’ layup.

Cedar Creek's Kenji Franklin (left) and Micah McDonald leap for a rebound against Akins at home Tuesday

“That’s me being lackadaisical with the ball,” Conrad said about the turnover. “I just need to protect it. It’s an up-and-down game. I need to remember that at all times.”

Maxwell frequently repeats the coaching staff’s mantra to the players: “Good to great.”

"We can't be satisfied with winning. We want to win the right way, how great teams win."

-- Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell

“The past couple of years, we’ve been a good team,” he said. “To win district, which is our goal, we want to be a great team. We can’t be satisfied with winning. We want to win the right way, how great teams win.”

Cedar Creek (7-2) displayed a lot in the positive column. They connected on 53.2% of field goals and had 17 assists. The Eagles also overpowered Akins (3-2) in the rebound department 42 to 23.

Kenji Franklin, Cedar Creek’s 6-foot-6 junior, had a mismatch every time he touched the ball. Franklin, a Division I prospect, scored 21 points on 8-of-11 from the floor, converted 2-of-3 three-pointers, and snagged 14 rebounds. Maxwell said Franklin grabbed 19 rebounds earlier this season to break Alfred Collins’ record. The only negative for Franklin were six turnovers.

“He’s definitely a solid player,” Akins coach Rashad Culver said about Franklin. “We had him on the scouting report to watch out for but had a bunch of 5-foot-8s covering him.”

Conrad, a verbal commitment with San Antonio’s Trinity University, was on target as well. He scored 22 points, hitting 8-of-13 from the floor and dishing out five assists.

“He’s a tough player,” Culver said about Conrad.

Cedar Creek starter Micah McDonald finished with a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds. He also handed off five assists.

Robert Conrad, who led Cedar Creek with 22 points, goes high for the layup against Akins

Phineas Koplin, a 6-2 junior, dropped 10 points.

Akins’ trap full-court press created problems for Cedar Creek, resulting in the turnover disparity.

Maxwell said his athletes also have to avoid the offensive charge. He said in last year’s loss at Akins that Franklin fouled out “because of phony flops.”

“They’re gonna fall down and hope the ref gives them the call,” Maxwell said about Akins.

As a result, Franklin has had to post up sideways rather than backing into a player, Maxwell said.

Cedar Creek was in front from the outset and led by 22 points with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before Akins scored the final five points.

Michael Eveleth, a 6-4 senior, led Akins with 13 points but converted only 3-of-14 from long range.

Culver held a long meeting with his athletes after the contest.

“This should hurt, taking a loss,” he said. “(I was) just keepin’ my guys up after a tough loss. Keepin’ them positive. Just let them know there’s a lot of basketball and a lot of improving to be done.”

Cedar Creek plays host to its tournament next Thursday and Friday.

Jim Irish is a freelance writer in Bastrop, Texas

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