RUNAWAY: Franklin, McWilliams, Academy rock Scurry-Rosser; Bees face Franklin in Region III quarters
Updated: Feb 26
FULL SPEED AHEAD: Academy senior wing Jaylin McWilliams scored 18 points to help lead the 16th-ranked Bumblebees to a 59-37 win over Scurry-Rosser in a Class 3A area-round playoff game Wednesday night at Buffalo High School. Junior point guard Darion Franklin paced Academy (19-7) with 21 points as coach James Holt's Bees earned their 12th straight victory and advanced to the Region III quarterfinals for the third consecutive season. Academy will battle No. 17 Franklin (18-3) in a third-round showdown at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lorena High School. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
BUFFALO – Two seasons ago, Academy power forward Tanner Rambeau was voted the Most Valuable Player of District 19-3A boys basketball as a sophomore.
Last season, Bumblebees wing Jaylin McWilliams won the district's MVP award as a junior.
This season, Academy point guard Darion Franklin is a prime contender to be selected as the league's MVP as a junior.
With their combination of outstanding performance and big-game experience, it was no surprise that Academy possessed far too much offensive firepower and defensive intensity for significantly less battle-tested Scurry-Rosser to handle in a Class 3A area-round playoff game Wednesday night at Buffalo High School.
Franklin exploded for 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and McWilliams scored 18 to propel the 16th-ranked Bumblebees to a 36-11 halftime lead as they romped to a 59-37 win over the turnover-plagued, cold-shooting Wildcats and rolled into the Region III quarterfinals for the third consecutive season.
Franklin and McWilliams alone outscored Scurry-Rosser by a 39-37 count, in large part because 19-3A champion Academy (19-7) pressured the Wildcats into 20 turnovers during the first three quarters, highlighted by a slew of what Bees fifth-year head coach James Holt described as “catastrophic turnovers” – giveaways that directly lead to baskets at the other end of the court.
“That could be part of it,” Holt said regarding the Bees' advantage in experience and physical maturity as compared to Scurry-Rosser (17-8). “They're a fairly young team, and us being a veteran team is one of our keys. We wanted to make them play faster than they're accustomed to playing and get easy points for us.”
The final score didn't really do justice to how the bulk of the game transpired. Academy ripped off a 12-1 scoring blitz in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter to extend its advantage to 48-12, and its starters went to the bench for the rest of the evening after a long pass from McWilliams led to Franklin's easy layup, making it 54-16 with 2:31 remaining in the third.
Shooting guard Jerry Cephus contributed seven points and fellow senior Rambeau added six as the Bees pushed their winning streak to 12 games.
“(It was) our intensity in warmups,” McWilliams said about the key to the second straight playoff rout for Academy, which blasted bi-district opponent Teague 70-43 on Saturday. “We came out here and knew what we had to do to get on to the next round. We came out here to execute. I think we know each other and we know our bond, so everybody knows what the other person's capable of. So if we just play as a team, we're good and we know what to do.”
SMOOTH SAILING: Academy junior point guard Darion Franklin scores an open layup as Cagle Peavy (3) and another Scurry-Rosser player look on during the Bumblebees' 59-37 victory in a Class 3A area-round playoff game Wednesday night in Buffalo. Franklin scored 17 of his game-best 21 points in the first half to help 16th-ranked Academy (19-7) extend its winning streak to 12 games and move into a Region III quarterfinal against No. 17 Franklin (18-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lorena High School. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Academy will battle familiar foe Franklin (18-3) in a Region III quarterfinal at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lorena High School. The No. 17-ranked Lions, who went 14-0 in 20-3A, overcame a 35-26 halftime deficit to defeat West 61-51 in area-round action Wednesday night in Robinson.
“It'll be a really good game. They've got a good coach and they do a lot of good stuff,” Holt said about Franklin, which is unbeaten since its 71-69 loss to 4A regional quarterfinalist and now-No. 22-ranked Waco Connally on Dec. 29.
Academy and Franklin haven't yet played against each other this season, but they have plenty of history in recent years. The Bees' only loss in 40 district games in the past three seasons was 37-30 at Franklin in February 2019.
Academy swept Franklin in district play last season, but that was after the Lions charged back from what Holt recalled being a 19-point deficit to seize a 58-57 win over the Bees at the Ben Wheeler Martin's Mill tournament in December 2019.
When it challenges Franklin again Saturday afternoon in an eagerly anticipated showdown, Academy will seek to overcome its obstacle that's been the third round of the playoffs. The Bees sailed into the Region III quarterfinals each of the previous two seasons but then were eliminated by powerful Crockett teams in a pair of physical, high-intensity clashes.
McWilliams said he believes Academy currently has what will be required to get past its third-round hurdle.
“I think we're ready. We've been having good practices, and we have to finish our week off at practice and then we'll be ready to go into whatever comes to us,” McWilliams said of the regional quarterfinal. “It's just how we come out and play. I think only we can determine that, so however we come out is how we're going to play.”
District 17-3A runner-up Scurry-Rosser, which beat first-round opponent Riesel 65-47 on Saturday, was paced by the only two seniors on its roster. Athletic 6-4 forward Terrell Blanton scored 15 points and guard Jaxon Jonas had 12 for the Wildcats, who started one freshman and suited up five others. Junior guard Garrett Hill added seven points.
Scurry-Rosser's pass-and-cut, 3-point-shooting offense produced only 12 points in the game's first 19 minutes against Academy's persistent defense, which allowed 43 or fewer points for the fourth straight game.
“They couldn't get the shots that they usually shoot, the wide-open shots,” McWilliams said. “That's what we tried to take away, because they're great shooters.”
Senior starting guard Kollin Mraz, senior backup forward Tyler Lambert and junior reserve guards Chris Preddie and Trae Rambeau boosted Academy with their energetic defense and rebounding. However, Holt said the Bees allowed far too many offensive boards for his liking in the first half, an issue he said they must resolve as postseason play continues.
Rambeau's short shot in the lane and Franklin's putback of his own miss were Academy's only points in the first 3½ minutes as the game got off to a ragged start overall, but Hill's left-wing 3-pointer with 2:48 gone proved to be Scurry-Rosser's only points of the opening period.
Mraz rebounded a missed 3 by Cephus and scored inside for a 6-3 lead, then Cephus fired an outlet pass that Franklin redirected to McWilliams for a difficult layup that turned into a three-point play to make it 9-3. Franklin then turned a steal into a layin for a 12-3 game.
Scurry-Rosser coach James Hill called a timeout in an attempt to motivate his team and slow Academy's momentum, but it was to no avail.
McWilliams dribbled nearly the length of the floor for a layup, Franklin grabbed a steal in the backcourt and turned it into another layin and Trae Rambeau fired up his team by drawing a charging foul. To punctuate the Bees' first-quarter dominance, Franklin lobbed a baseline inbound pass to the 6-foot-3 McWilliams, who soared to catch the ball at its apex before making a close-range, midair shot off the glass to beat the buzzer and expand Academy's advantage to 19-3.
“Since Jaylin was in eighth grade, I've seen him do things that no other player we have can do,” Holt said. “He has a knack for laying it up around the basket with either hand and he's a great finisher.”
SIZE ADVANTAGE: Academy senior forward Tanner Rambeau (25) uses his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to score a basket in the lane against Scurry-Rosser defenders Jaxon Jonas (right) and Terrell Blanton during the 16th-ranked Bumblebees' 59-37 win over the Wildcats in Wednesday night's Class 3A area-round playoff game at Buffalo High School. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
For Academy, the second quarter packed more of the same stuff. Cephus converted a steal into a layup for a three-point play before the 6-4, 230-pound Tanner Rambeau used his major size advantage to score a second-effort basket inside.
“He's so strong, he takes up a lot of space and has really good moves,” Holt said.
Blanton's inside hoop and a Jonas 3-pointer provided signs of life as Scurry-Rosser trimmed its deficit to 24-8 with 5:19 left until halftime, but McWilliams then scored easily off a lead pass before Franklin turned back-to-back turnovers by the Wildcats into easy layups for a 30-8 game.
The Bees essentially put it out of reach when Franklin made two consecutive 3-pointers from the right wing – with another charging foul drawn by Trae Rambeau in between – to push Academy's lead to 36-10 with 1:48 remaining en route to a 36-11 halftime advantage.
“He's our tone-setter,” McWilliams said of Franklin, who made the Bees' only two 3s in the game and led them in scoring for the second straight playoff contest. “He's a leader and next year it's going to be his team. He knows exactly what he needs to do and what he's capable of doing. He's really good and we're blessed to have him.”
Academy, which committed only nine turnovers overall, didn't mess around to begin the second half. Tanner Rambeau scored inside off Mraz's deft pass, McWilliams made two free throws and Cephus scored a layup off a steal before Franklin and Cephus each added a layin.
McWilliams scored two creative, fast-break layups in a span of 19 seconds, then threw a long pass that set up Franklin's easy bucket to make it 54-16 with 2:31 left in the third, at which point Holt sent his starting five to the bench to watch the remainder of the night's action.
Led by 6-4 slasher Blanton, Scurry-Rosser outscored Academy's reserves 21-5 in the final 10½ minutes to make the final score more respectable for the Wildcats. Only two of Scurry-Rosser's five 3s came in the first three periods, and the Wildcats were 6-of-15 on free throws.
BOYS HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
CLASS 3A AREA PLAYOFF
No. 16 Academy 59,
Scurry-Rosser 3 8 10 16 – 37
Academy 19 17 18 5 – 59
Scurry-Rosser (17-8) – Terrell Blanton 15, Jaxon Jonas 12, Garrett Hill 7, Rowdy Miller 2, Christian Lopez 1.
Academy (19-7) – Darion Franklin 21, Jaylin McWilliams 18, Jerry Cephus 7, Tanner Rambeau 6, Tyler Lambert 2, Kollin Mraz 2, Trae Rambeau 2, Chris Preddie 1.
3-point field goals – Scurry-Rosser 5 (Jonas 3, Blanton 1, Hill 1); Academy 2 (Franklin 2).
Free throws – Scurry-Rosser 6-15; Academy 7-10.
Notes – Academy extends winning streak to 12 games and advances to 3A Region III quarterfinal vs. No. 17 Franklin (18-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lorena High School; Academy reaches Region III quarterfinals for third consecutive season.