For as much as the Permian Panthers achieved this season, they’re not ready for the party to end any time soon.
The Panthers (28-3) open the Class 6A boys basketball playoffs with a bi-district matchup against El Paso Coronado (18-11) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Pecos High School. Permian, which comes in with a 20-game winning streak and a No. 16 state ranking, is intent on making a deep run in its third consecutive trip to the playoffs under coach Tim Thomas.
“We just know that we can go a bit further,” senior guard Derrick Wright said. “(Thomas’) first year here, we went to the first round. His second year, we went to the second round. I just know we can go a lot further this season.
“We’ve just got to stay humble and keep working. It’ll all play out for itself if we come and do what we do and play how we’ve been playing.”
Humility hasn’t been an issue for the Panthers despite their dominant run to the District 2-6A championship. Permian won its 10 district games by an average of 23.4 points with no game closer than 10 points.
“We never get big-headed,” Wright said. “We always know there’s still a lot of work to do. We’re one of the few teams that has done this in Permian history, so we just take it in stride. We’re proud of our accomplishments, but we know we’re not finished.”
Senior post Ozzy Terrazas said the Panthers have made a significant leap forward under Thomas.
“First of all, we have a great coach to guide us and tell us how we’re supposed to play,” Terrazas said. “We just try to buy in to all the things he tells us and that’s what we just have to do.
“It was a big confidence boost for us when we got the streak. We kept winning games and going on to play better teams and winning them. We just bought in to it and that was really the key to us.”
And that confidence, Terrazas said, will be a key factor for Permian in the postseason.
“We have confidence in ourselves, but we’re not overconfident,” he said. “We have respect for the other team, but we’re excited.”
Permian has benefited from balanced scoring that has been one of the team’s calling cards. In a 58-29 victory at Wolfforth Frenship in their district opener on Jan. 12, the Panthers had two players finish with nine points, two with eight and two more with six.
“We all just try to play within ourselves and play with each other,” senior guard Elijah White said. “We all know what each other can do, so we just try to keep each other involved. We just play as a team.”
The Panthers also enjoy versatility that few teams have with several players able to handle any position on the court.
“It’s really good for us,” White said. “It kind of confuses the other team and throws them off a little bit when we switch it up and have different people running different things.
“It’s real good that all of us can play every position and be interchangeable in a lot of spots.”
As the postseason begins, Wright said, the Panthers have to up their level of play if they are to compete with teams from the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas.
“Our intensity level has to go up,” Wright said. “The state of Texas is predominately dominated by the Metroplex. We want to come in and change that. Coach Thomas has always said that we’re competing against those schools, so that’s who we envision ourselves playing.
“We’ve just got to go out there and compete, no matter who we play, and take care of business.”