GETTING THE JOB DONE: Johnson, Jones lead way as Belton boys top Shoemaker 80-62, grab playoff spot
WIN AND IN: Belton junior forward TJ Johnson scored a game-high 34 points to help lead the Tigers to an 80-62 victory at Killeen Shoemaker on Tuesday night, improving them to 17-7 overall and 8-5 in District 12-6A. The win clinched Belton's first playoff berth in three seasons with head coach Jason Fossett. Senior guard Ben Jones scored 20 points and freshman guard Trap Johnson added 13 for the Tigers, who will play top-ranked Waxahachie or No. 2 Duncanville in a Class 6A bi-district playoff game next week. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
KILLEEN – The Belton boys basketball team had lost three of its previous four District 12-6A games entering Tuesday night, but the Tigers still had their goal right in front of them as they traveled to Killeen Shoemaker: Win the game, clinch a playoff berth.
Junior forward TJ Johnson scored 34 points and senior guard Ben Jones produced 20 as Belton pulled away for an 80-62 victory over Shoemaker, propelling the Tigers into the Class 6A state playoffs for the first time in their three seasons with head coach Jason Fossett.
Freshman guard Trap Johnson had 13 points and senior guard Kayden Downs added nine as Belton (17-7 overall, 8-5 in 12-6A) completed a season sweep of the Grey Wolves (8-15, 6-7).
After absorbing road losses last week against district champion and No. 9-ranked Killeen Ellison and third-place Bryan, the fourth-place Tigers entered Tuesday clinging to a one-game lead over Shoemaker for 12-6A's final playoff position and knowing that a victory would clinch that spot.
The Grey Wolves led 15-9 early and 15-13 after the first quarter, but Belton outscored them 15-8 in the second period to seize a 28-23 halftime advantage. The Tigers expanded their lead to 48-39 through three quarters, then separated from Shoemaker by exploding for 32 points in the final period to the Grey Wolves' 23.
Belton will complete its regular season Friday with a 7 p.m. home game against second-place Harker Heights (1-3 in district). The Tigers, who are 5-5 in league play after getting off to a 3-0 start, still can grab a share of third place if they beat Heights and third-place Bryan (19-5, 9-4) loses at Shoemaker on Friday.
In the bi-district playoffs next week, Belton will challenge either top-ranked Waxahachie or No. 2 Duncanville, who still are battling for the 11-6A championship. Duncanville's only loss in 23 games this season was 88-85 in overtime against Waxahachie on Jan. 9. The second clash between the Panthers and the Indians is scheduled for next Monday.
Belton will make its first postseason appearance since the 2017-18 season, when coach Trovocie Jackson's 19-15 Tigers lost 61-47 to DeSoto in the 6A bi-district round.