READY FOR ROUND 2: No. 10 Academy boys battle Clifton, seek return trip to Region III quarterfinals
By GREG WILLE
GATESVILLE – After charging past Fairfield in its Class 3A playoff opener, the Academy boys basketball team is set for Round 2 action tonight.
The No. 10-ranked Bumblebees (25-7) play the Clifton Cubs (24-8) in an area-round duel at 7 p.m. at Gatesville High School.
Reigning Region III champion Academy began its title defense with a 78-54 victory over Fairfield on Tuesday in Hearne, the 10th postseason win in the last four seasons for the Bees of head coach James Holt.
Senior point guard Darion Franklin paced unbeaten District 19-3A champ Academy with 36 points against Fairfield and junior guard Cole Shackelford scored 20. Quintrell Lockett contributed 10 points and fellow senior guard Trae Rambeau added nine.
Meanwhile, Clifton advanced to the second round by defeating Palmer 56-44 on Tuesday in Corsicana. Coach Tom Daniel’s Cubs placed third in 17-3A with a 9-5 record, behind undefeated champ Lorena and runner-up West.
Clifton’s leading player is senior Seth Payne, last season’s 17-3A MVP. Payne averages 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Cubs senior Griffin Phillips averages 10.8 points and 6.1 rebounds.
The Academy-Clifton winner will advance to a Region III quarterfinal next week and will battle the victor of tonight’s game between No. 14 Franklin (18-3) and West (19-10).
Academy defeated Franklin 69-47 in a regional quarterfinal a year ago on its way to the state semifinals before a 59-50 loss to eventual state champion San Antonio Cole. The Bees seek their fourth consecutive regional quarterfinal appearance.