After enjoying success though the nondistrict portion of their schedules, the Odessa High Bronchos and Permian Panthers get to the games that count Friday with the opening of District 2-6A play.
Permian (18-3) visits Wolfforth Frenship, while Odessa High (16-5) hosts Midland Lee at the OHS Fieldhouse. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. starts.
For both Odessa High coach Jance Morris and Permian coach Tim Thomas, it’s time to put the early-season lessons learned into practice.
“On the board in the locker room, we have records, but then we have everybody’s district record — a big 0-0,” Morris said. “Our record in predistrict does not matter.
“Every team in our district is capable of beating anybody night in and night out. There’s no bottom-feeder in the district. It’s tough, and we talk to the kids about that all the time.”
Thomas has followed a similar tack with preparing the Panthers for district play.
“I tell the team that everybody is in first place and everybody is in last place,” Thomas said. “Everybody’s 0-0. What you did prior to this has no bearing on this district season.
“Obviously, everybody wants to get off to a good start. And after Friday night, half the teams will be in last place and half the teams will be in first. What we’re looking to do is just keep improving. W’eve got to increase our focus, increase our intensity and we’ve got to increase our team play.”
Odessa High enters district with four players averaging in double figures for scoring. Isaac Hernandez leads the team at 14.5 points per game, followed by Miguel Fonseca at 13 points, while Kaleb Murry and Josh Cabello both average 10 points.
Morris said the key to the early portion of the schedule was the Bronchos’ ability to adapt to his schemes.
“We’re learning a new system, so that takes time,” Morris said. “A new offense, a new defense, but they have picked it up. We have smart kids. They’re hard workers, they’re attentive and they’re smart basketball players.
“Really, the quality of players we have is what’s made it a smooth transition.”
At Permian, Brother Miller is the leading scorer with Nakavieon White second. Point guard Elijah White leads the Panthers in assists and steals, while 6-foot-7 forward Ozzy Terrazas is the leading rebounder.
Thomas said the Panthers’ resilience has been a major factor so far this season.
“We’ve had some games where I didn’t know where we were from the standpoint of we didn’t come and compete like I thing we could, like I know we could,” he said. “And then we had some games where we came out and we met that expectation. We had some really great, quality wins. You don’t win at Hobbs, and we won at Hobbs. We had a game where we were down by 17 and came back and won. We went to the Metroplex and had some success there. We won two tournaments this year.
“This team has done things that hadn’t been done before, and in order to do things that you haven’t done before, you’ve got to be willing to do things you’ve never done before. Meaning we’ve got to have dedication to practice, we’ve got to care and love one another, we’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to be focused. This group has done a really good job of that.”
Despite the success over the first two months of the season, both coaches said their squads must continue to make progress through the five weeks of district play.
“We’re trying to fine-tune our offense,” Thomas said. “We’ve been inconsistent offensively. We’ve had some games where we scored 80 or 90 points. We’ve had some games where we’ve gone into a drought and couldn’t put the ball in the basket.
“We’re working on our offense, but the mainstay for us is always going to be our defense and hustle. We want to outhustle people. We tell our kids that if you take the name off our jersey, they should know us by our hustle and our defense and our toughness and out teamwork.”
At Odessa High, Morris said the Bronchos will continue to work on the same things they’ve been doing every day.
“Our defense, our closeouts, our rebounding and talking on the defensive end,” he said. “We’re never going to be perfect at those things, so that’s something we focus on every day. You can never get good enough at that, so that’s our main focus every day.”