FULL STEAM AHEAD: Johnson, District 12-6A co-champion Belton begin playoff charge tonight vs. DeSoto
PRODUCTIVE PERFORMER: After Belton shared the District 12-6A championship with Harker Heights, Lipscomb-signed senior forward TJ Johnson (shooting) and the No. 21-ranked Tigers (29-5) begin the Class 6A playoffs against the DeSoto Eagles (26-11) at 8 tonight at West High School. Coach Jason Fossett's Belton squad went 12-2 in district play. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
The Belton boys basketball team has produced a dream season, racking up 29 victories, winning a share of the District 12-6A championship and achieving a spot in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches state rankings.
Star senior forward TJ Johnson and the No. 21-ranked Tigers have an opportunity to make it even better by earning a playoff win tonight.
Coach Jason Fossett’s 29-5 Belton squad challenges DeSoto (26-11) in a Class 6A bi-district playoff game at 8 p.m. at West High School.
The Eagles tied Waco Midway for fourth place in 11-6A at 7-7, then beat the Panthers 67-54 last Friday in Corsicana to secure that league’s No. 4 playoff seed.
Belton and Harker Heights shared the 12-6A championship with matching 12-2 district records after splitting their two meetings. A coin flip after last week’s regular-season finales determined that Belton – a district champion for the first time since 2004 – would be 12-6A’s No. 1 playoff seed.
The Belton-DeSoto winner will advance to the area round later this week to battle Wylie (21-9), which defeated Rockwall 44-43 on Monday.
The Tigers are seeking to advance beyond the point they reached last season, when then-No. 1-ranked Waxahachie beat them 99-62 in the first round.
With two playoff victories, the Tigers might get into a matchup with second-ranked Duncanville (28-1) in a Region II quarterfinal early next week. The Panthers went 14-0 in 11-6A action, beating DeSoto by six and 20 points in their two clashes.
Belton is powered by the 6-foot-6 Johnson, a four-year starter who has scored more than 2,000 career points and signed to continue his career at NCAA Division I Lipscomb in Tennessee.
Known for their ball movement and sharp shooting from 3-point range, the Tigers complement the high-scoring Johnson with an array of players, including his younger brother, 6-5 sophomore shooting guard and two-year starter Trap Johnson.
Belton also has gotten positive contributions from Seth Morgan, Trent West and Bryan “Itty” Henry along with fellow seniors Peyton Euer and Tyler Tingle.