East boys eye second district championship
Jan. 12, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 12, 2012 at 7:13 p.m.
On Friday, the Victoria East Titans will literally begin running toward what they hope will be consecutive District 30-4A titles.
After winning the district championship in their first year, a smaller Titans squad is looking to take advantage of its athleticism.
"It's going to be hardest for those teams to prepare for us because nobody else is going to run and press like we do," said East coach John Grammer.
District begins with East (13-10) traveling to Gregory-Portland, West hosting Calhoun, and Floresville at Beeville.
The Titans advanced to the regional semifinals last season and finished with a 27-9 record.
East must adjust to playing without Tyler Friedel. The 6-foot-4 post averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game.
The Titans have only three players 6-feet or taller, and two players with varsity experience.
"We really have turned into a good defensive team, and we've rebounded a lot better than we thought we would when the season started." Grammer said.
Victoria West coach Pat Erskine said just because Friedel is gone does not mean the Titans can be written off.
"East is down this year, but they're also very athletic, and they can pose problems with a lot of teams," Erskine said.
Senior guard Dav'Vin Hill and junior guard Ian Sharpless are the only players on this year's roster that were in the lineup last season.
They are also the team's leading scorers. Through 23 games, Hill averages 12 points and Sharpless 10 points per game.
Grammer hopes the Titans are able to exploit the lack of depth against teams in the district.
"We want to try to get into their bench," Grammer said.
Erskine said there is one major difference between the West team that finished fourth in district last season and this year's squad.
"Our kids are a lot more confident," Erskine said. "I feel like we can line up and play anybody, and we feel we can win."
Last year, the Warriors advanced to the playoffs with a 6-4 district record.
The underclassmen gained experience in a bi-district playoff loss to San Antonio Brackenridge.
Drew Erskine, last year's district MVP, leads the team in scoring with 18 points per game.
"He's their glue, he's their leader," Grammer said. "We have to control him, and when we played him during our tournament, we didn't do a good job of controlling him early."
Pat Erskine was encouraged by the team's improvement of post play, particularly that of senior Clayton Cain.
Cain is averaging seven points a game, and the coach praised his play against Trent Internationale post Aly Mohamad on Jan. 3.
Cain scored 18 points and held Mohamad - a Rice commit - to four points.
"I think Clayton can pretty much handle any post," Pat Erskine said.
Pat Erskine is confident the Warriors have the ability to gain a higher playoff seed and make a deeper playoff run.
"I don't know that we're a favorite," Erskine said. "I feel like we're a team that has to be considered as one of the top one or two teams."
District opponents had a hard time handling Calhoun post Isaac Cardona.
The Sandcrabs (19-4) have more options this season with the emergence of guard Dylan Saenz.
"In the past, a lot of times you didn't want to kick it out because you didn't know what you were going to get," said Calhoun coach Sonny Benefield. "Now, when we kick it out, we know we're going to get a quality shot."
Cardona leads Calhoun with an 18 points per game averages, while Saenz averages 14.
The Sandcrabs finished second last season with a 7-3 record.
Calhoun has bigger goals this season.
"It's going to be a dogfight, but if you look at it on paper, with the experience we have, we should be in the top two," Benefield said.