By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
The Tigers finally get to test their improvement on the court and in the standings against District 16-4A competition Friday night when they travel to Whitehouse to play the Wildcats.
How will Corsicana’s 18-4 non-district record stack up against 16-4A heavyweights Whitehouse, Jacksonville and John Tyler?
The Tigers are about to find out, and more imortantly, they’re looking forward to the challenge, coach Don Newton said Thursday.
“I can honestly say that is true,” Newton said. “There’s been a lot of energy in the gym. The guys are ready to stick their toe in the water and see where they stand.”
The Tigers have a top scoring trio with Mike Lewis, Dzifa Mallet and Ernest McGhee. They’ve proven to have a solid bench that is athletic and quick defensively. Point guard Ralph Watts, who is back after a football injury, provided a jolt with a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer on Monday night against Class 3A No. 17-ranked Fairfield.
The Fairfield win was a big positive heading into Friday’s district opener. The Eagles had a top talent in forward Bryson Gates and solid 3-point shooters. Corsicana overcame a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 52-49 win.
“It was a good-gut check win for a team that hasn’t historically been able to grind,” Newton said. “It was good to compete and be able to win in the last two minutes. Fairfield’s been a Top 15 team that last four years.”
Whitehouse (16-5) will present a big challenge. The Wildcats have an ultra-talented floor leader with junior Pat Mahomes, who scored 27 points in Tuesday’s 82-78 victory over Marshall. The trio of Spencer Shaw, Jake Parker and Jaylon Dews combined for 44 points and 21 rebounds.
The Tigers, who play mostly a matchup zone, aren’t expected to make an adjustment specifically for Mahomes.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Newton said. “Obviously he concerns me. He’s their motor. He makes them go.”
Newton built his schedule to prepare his team for all five teams in 16-4A. Two recent opponents, Waco Robinson and Fairfield, play similar styles to Whitehouse with a sagging man-to-man defense.
“We’ve got a chance,” Newton said. “Our style is different. The matchup zone is different.”
Any talk about 16-4A being softer than last year’s nine-team 15-4A can be quickly rejected.
Jacksonville, which comes to Corsicana on Tuesday, is 23-0 and ranked No. 13 in the state. John Tyler has only six wins, but has a talented squad and received two first-place votes in the 16-4A media poll.
Both teams like to push the ball and score in transition.
“We’re prepared to play against either style,” Newton said.
District 16-4A Media Basketball Poll
Rank School Points Season record
1. John Tyler (3) 23 6-12
2. Jacksonville (1) 21 23-0
3. Whitehouse 15 16-5
4. Corsicana 12 18-4
5. Nacogdoches 9 11-7
6. Lindale 4 7-10
Participants: Jay Neal, Jacksonville Daily Progress; Brandon Ogden, Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel; Todd Wills, Corsicana Daily Sun; Harold Wilson, Tyler Morning Telegraph.
() — First-place votes
^ — Points were awarded for: first (six), second (five), third (four), fourth (three), fifth (two), sixth (one)