BURLESON — Burkburnett’s duo of Elijah Strickland and Chavaz Jackson combined to score 55 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 76-63 victory over Liberty Hill in their Region I-3A area matchup at Elks Arena on Friday night.
“That’s the game we’ve been looking for,” Burkburnett coach Danny Nix said. “We did all the little things that good teams have to do. We hung in really tough defensively when things went bad, and we rebounded terrifically. I don’t know what the margin was, but we had some men on the boards tonight.”
Rebounds and interior defense were the difference-makers in the Bulldogs’ victory. Matt Everson led the Bulldogs with 10 rebounds, with Justin Bell and Cameron Cahayla picking up nine and eight boards, respectively.
The team out-rebounded the Panthers 43-25, an impressive feat considering the Bulldogs were up against Division I recruit Blake Danielak in the paint. Danielak led the Panthers with a near triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks despite his team’s loss.
“He can shoot the three and he can score inside well,” Nix said. “He’s a tough player and I thought, for the most part, that we did a fantastic job on him. Our guys really collapsed well and played great team defense, because we didn’t have anyone that could stop him one-on-one.”
The Bulldogs (24-9) move on to the regional quarterfinals to play No. 3 Kennedale at a date and time to be determined.
Strickland hit six of the team’s 10 3-point shots to score a game-high 28 points, while Jackson followed close behind with 27 points.
“They both shot the ball terrifically,” Nix said. “Chavaz and Elijah have been our scorers all year and they did a great job, but we had a ton of guys get assists for them, and set ball screens on them to free them up. They did a wonderful job knocking down those shots, but it was a total team effort.”
The Bulldogs’ night did not start out as perfectly as it ended. Both teams traded baskets until the Panthers were able to get an early 21-18 lead on Burkburnett at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a few Bulldog turnovers.
The second quarter was when Strickland and Jackson heated up. After a 25-20 Liberty Hill lead early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs went on a 9-2 run with three minutes left in the first half thanks to a quick steal and basket by Jackson, followed by a deep 3-pointer from Strickland and another quick steal and basket from Arthur Hamlett, who had nine points, seven assists and six rebounds.
After a defensive stop for the Bulldogs, Strickland hit a heavily contested 18-footer to give the Bulldogs a 29-27 lead, and they never looked back, finishing the quarter with a 34-32 lead.
“We were just giving up too many easy baskets in the press,” Nix said. “They were just going through the press and it looked kind of like a layup line. We just talked about tightening it up on the front and protecting the basket a little better — stuff that we want to do all the time. It wasn’t a big adjustment, but we started playing a lot better, so I thought that was a big difference there. We handled little mistakes and came back and kept fighting. I’m really proud of that. (Liberty Hill is) a team that was 30-4, and they were whooping up on 4A and 5A schools. It was a big win for us.”
The Bulldogs continued to push the tempo in their favor and defensively locked down the Panthers in the second half, allowing Jackson and Strickland to combine for 32 points after intermission.
“I thought we really executed on defense better than usual, and that was the difference maker,” Jackson said. “Our teammates set good passes for us and set good screens.”
“Defense is key moving on,” Strickland said.
boys playoff linescore
region 1-3a area
Burkburnett 76, Liberty Hill 63
Burkburnett (24-9) — Hamlett 9, Chavaz Jackson 27, Shelby 3, Elijah Strickland 28, Bell 5, Cahayla 2.
Liberty Hill) — White 5, Mikulencak 2, Jadon Boatright 11, Shane LaCaille 14, Eyre 5, Blake Danielak 24, Cousins 2.
Burkburnett 18 16 22 20 —76
Liberty Hill 21 11 16 15 —63
3-Point Goals — (B) 10 (Strickland 6, C. Jackson 3, Hamlett 1); (LH) 4 (Danielak 2, LaCaille 1, White 1).
Free Throws — (B) 12-17; (LH) 11-15.