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'Dogs Leave No Doubt; Chase Cats from Playoffs

(Photo by Bill Higgins) Seljah Johnson shooting a free throw earlier in the year against North Lamar.
(Photo by Bill Higgins)
Seljah Johnson shooting a free throw earlier in the year against North Lamar.

The Paris Wildcats needed a perfect game and a bit of luck to overcome their area round playoff hurdle Friday night at Mount Pleasant.  They got neither, and for the second straight year the Kilgore Bulldogs ended the Cats boys basketball season in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs, 59-47.

The Bulldogs used an 11-0, third-quarter run to extend a 4-point lead to 15, 39-24.  With Kilgore coach Jeff Coleman, a master of the deliberate offense, calling the shots, it might has well have been a 50-point point.  Although the Cats kept clawing to the final horn and managed to whittle the advantage down to 11, 54-43, late in the game, a suspenseful outcome was never in the cards.

That’s in stark contrast to the past four seasons which ended for Paris in the area round with heart-breaking suddenness: 2010 (78-72 to Carrollton Ranchview), 2011 (39-37 to Lindale), 2012 (48-46 in OT to Lindale), and last year (52-50 to Kilgore).  This time there were no tears, no “what-might-have-beens”.

The Cats lost to a more athletic and taller team which jumped out to a 16-5 lead and never looked back.  The Bulldogs, as expected, concentrated their defense on stopping Paris’ top scoring threat Seljah Johnson which opened a slight window of opportunity for Wildcat teammates to take up the slack.  Instead, the Cats missed numerous opportunities in the paint, and Kilgore’s height advantage never allowed second chances.

Even the lucky bounces (long rebounds, loose balls, errant passes) seemed to have Kilgore’s imprint.  The Cats did enjoy a 2-to-1 advantage in crowd support; otherwise, it was a Big Red Night.

Kilgore (24-7) managed the feat with its starting five: 6-7 senior Clery Delmas (10 points), 6-5 junior X’avier Gaona (14), 6-4 junior Trey Conrod (17), 6-3 junior Nick Orange (10), and 5-11 senior point guard Deon Kincade (8).  The Bulldogs got no production from their bench, which could have been a weakness the Cats might have exploited, especially since Orange and Conrod each picked up 3 personal fouls by halftime.

Although Orange fouled out late in the game, the two main Bulldog stars managed to stay on the court, and Paris never got the chance to test Kilgore’s reserves.

The Paris bench accounted for 20 points in the game, and the postseason experience logged by the three sophomores and a freshman should be seen as a positive omen for the future.  Still, it wasn’t enough to take up the slack from an off-night by the slick 6-4 junior Johnson, who was held to 14, 6 points off his season average.

The outcome ended the season for Paris (23-9) and the careers of seniors Adrian Beamon (5 points), Marc Bawcum (2), and Ronyae Bell (2).  The trio, like their younger Cat teammates, played with intensity against long odds.

Kilgore, meanwhile, advances to the regional quarterfinals and a long-awaited East Texas matchup with 10th-ranked Athens (29-1).

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