Odessa emerged as the high school boys basketball capitol of West Texas this season with Permian and Odessa High taking the top two spots in the District 2-6A standings.
Now the Panthers and Bronchos look to extend their seasons Tuesday when they open the playoffs with a bi-district doubleheader at Pecos High School.
Permian (28-3) will take on El Paso Coronado (18-11) at 6 p.m., with Odessa High (23-8) playing El Paso Montwood (13-14) at 7:30 p.m. Permian won the 2-6A championship with a 10-0 record and carries a 20-game winning streak and the No. 16 state ranking into the postseason. Odessa High finished second at 7-3 with two of the losses to the Panthers. Coronado and Montwood tied for third in District 1-6A with the Rams winning the coin flip to determine seeding.
“I’m happy for the kids in Odessa,” Odessa High coach Jance Morris said of the Ector County teams’ success. “It’s good for the city, good for the community and good for the school district that we have the opportunity to go play and represent the town well.”
In the area round, the Permian-Coronado winner will take on the winner of Tuesday’s bi-district game between Keller and Arlington Martin. The Odessa High-Montwood winner advances to meet the winner of Tuesday’s game between Keller Central and Fort Worth Paschal.
To get there, both the Panthers and Bronchos will have to surpass the level of play that got them to the postseason.
“You’ve got to zero in and play,” Permian coach Tim Thomas said. “You’ve got to have your focus and intensity level high. Everybody is zeroing in on their team, so you’ve got to zero in on their team and yourself. It’s a fun time, though. Everybody’s 0-0.”
At the same time, Thomas said, the Panthers can’t afford to drastically change their approach.
“We’ve got to be who we are,” he said. “We’ve got to try to take away what our opponents do best. That’s always been the case, but we’ve got to do it better.
“We want to be who we are. If you take the names off the jerseys, we want people to come watch that team to be able to say ‘that’s Permian’ because of how we play. We want to hustle, play tough, play defense and play team basketball.”
Morris said the Bronchos must be aware that there is no margin for error in the playoffs.
“The difference is if we lose, we’re done,” he said. “We’ve been telling them all the time there’s no more ‘my bads,’ there’s no more ‘well, we’ll play again on Friday.’ The urgency has to be there or you’re done. That’s just the way it is.
“We’ve got to get better defensively, we’ve got to stop turning the ball over, the same things we’ve said all year long.”
Because of the tie in District 1-6A, neither Permian nor Odessa High were assured of their bi-district opponent until after last week’s regular-season finales. That made for some extra scouting work for both Thomas and Nance.
“We felt like at one point it could be a three-way tie, so we got information on all the teams,” Thomas said. “Now we can obviously focus on Coronado, just like we do in the regular season. We want to get information on the teams, their habits, what they do best, what kind of defense they play, what kind of offense they play, who are their best players and stuff like that.
“The teams out in El Paso are really well coached and have a lot of talent, just like we do. We have to prepare for them.”
Morris said the situation didn’t impose any hardship on the Bronchos’ preparation.
“We’ve known since Wednesday that we were going to play Montwood, so we’ve got film on them,” he said. “They’re a really good basketball team, but we’ve had five days to prepare for them. The game plan is in place, now the kids just have to go execute.
“Offensively, they’re very patient and methodical. They do not make mistakes, so we’ve got to be locked in for every defensive possession the entire possession all night long.”