NEW QUEST BEGINS: Season after state semifinal trip, No. 10 Academy boys open playoffs vs. Fairfield
PLAYOFF TIME: Academy senior point guard Darion Franklin (left, shooting) and the 10th-ranked Bumblebees (24-7) begin the Class 3A state playoffs against the Fairfield Eagles (15-14) at 7:30 tonight at Hearne High School. Academy, which is unbeaten in District 19-3A play three consecutive seasons, advanced to the state semifinals last season. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
After advancing to the Class 3A state semifinals last season, the Academy boys basketball team embarks tonight on what it hopes will be another extended journey in the playoffs.
Following their third consecutive undefeated run through District 19-3A, the No. 10-ranked Bumblebees (24-7) begin 3A postseason play with a bi-district game against the Fairfield Eagles (15-14) at 7:30 p.m. at Hearne High School.
That matchup is the second half of an Academy-Fairfield doubleheader at Hearne. At 6, Academy’s 27-7 girls team challenges No. 2 Fairfield (35-1) in a Region III quarterfinal, with the winner advancing to the regional tournament later this week. Coach Brian Pursche’s No. 22 Lady Bees beat Troy 52-38 last Thursday in Belton behind senior post Ellie Erwin's 33 points.
Coach James Holt’s Academy boys – 51-1 in district competition the last four seasons – won the 19-3A championship by two games over Cameron Yoe (24-8), which was defeated 60-58 by Groesbeck in a bi-district playoff Monday night.
Fairfield went 8-6 in 20-3A for fourth place, behind co-champions Crockett and Franklin and third-place Groesbeck.
The Academy-Fairfield winner advances to the area round later this week and will take on the winner of Tuesday’s bi-district duel between Clifton (23-8) and Palmer (22-9).
Academy has won 13 straight games since its 56-52 loss to 2A No. 3 Douglass (30-3) in the semifinals of the Tenaha tournament Dec. 28.
The Bees are led by the high-scoring senior tandem of point guard Darion Franklin – who shared last season’s 19-3A MVP award with then-senior teammate Jaylin McWilliams – and shooting guard Trae Rambeau. Academy’s starting lineup also includes senior Chris Preddie and juniors Scout Brazeal and Cole Shackelford.
Senior guards Quintrell Lockett and Grant Langfeld provide contributions off the bench along with junior forward Cooper Shackelford, junior guard Lance Wille and sophomore guard Zane Clark.
Academy and No. 14 Franklin (17-3) are on a collision course to meet in a Region III quarterfinal for the second straight season. Last season, the Bees beat the Lions 69-47 in a third-round clash in Lorena on their way to capturing the Region III championship. Eventual state champion San Antonio Cole ended Academy’s run in a state semifinal, 59-50.