The Panthers were going to be forced to play without senior guard Kobe Robinson, junior guard Brother Miller and sophomore guard Genuwine Powell.
Robinson and Miller each suffered season-ending right knee injuries during the football, while Powell was set to play for New Way Christian Academy.
Permian head coach Tim Thomas said the starting lineup that he envisioned, which also included senior forward Anthony Thomas and junior forward Odessa High transfer Ozzy Terrazas, was scrapped. The Panthers second-year head coach looked to last year’s role players and newcomers for multiple starting opportunities.
“My first thought was, ‘Lord, I’ve been trying to live right,’” Tim Thomas said with a smile. “But my thoughts were is that we have some quality kids in the program. Although they didn’t have the experience, if I can get them to play hard and keep improving, it’s a process and that we want to try to get better every week, everyday and every practice. If we get that one percent better, we are improving.”
Anthony Thomas — the team captain and leading scorer at 16.8 points per game — said there were plenty of doubters before the season started. The Panthers brushed off those early season concerns with a 21-11 record, finished runner-up in District 2-6A and play El Paso Coronado in the bi-district playoff game at 7:30 p.m. today at Sul Ross State University in Alpine.
“Honestly, I thought I had to step up,” the 6-foot-3 senior forward said. “The stuff I wasn’t doing I knew I had to work on whether it was before, during or after practice.
“We used it as motivation, because people would tell us, ‘Oh, you don’t have Brother and you don’t have Kobe, so you guys aren’t going to do anything.’ I was like, ‘We still have other people.’ We got some stuff going on.”
Permian opened the season with six straight wins by an average of 31.7 points per game.
However, Tim Thomas said the team’s inconsistent play was exposed during the Mansfield Tournament. The Panthers went 1-4 during that tournament with their lone win coming against Temple.
That ability to string together solid performances continued to plague Permian throughout the remainder of the predistrict schedule. The Panthers went 7-9 after their six-game win streak.
Yet, during the District 2-6A schedule, the Panthers flipped a switch to supply an 8-2 record with their two losses coming against Amarillo Tascosa — the district champions. Permian averaged 59 points per game and allowed 45.7, which included seven wins by double digits.
“I told the guys when we start district everyone is 0-0,” Anthony Thomas said. “The season starts over and if we come out and play as a team like we can, we can beat anybody.”
Though Robinson and Miller didn’t played during the regular season, the Panthers received a lift late in the district schedule. Powell returned to Permian’s lineup against Odessa High on Feb. 3 and he supplied three points off the bench.
Powell scored double digits in the next three contests, which included a season-high 17 points against Midland High in the regular season finale.
“Against Odessa High, I was kind of nervous,” Powell said. “I hit one shot, but it is what it is. When we played against Tascosa (following the Odessa High game), all my butterflies left and I just played my game.”
As a late addition, Powell meshes with the wealth of contributors.
The team has nine players that score at least one field goal per game. Anthony Thomas is the only scorer to average double digits throughout the entire season. The senior forward scored 10 or more points in 31 of the 32 games.
Terrazas averages 7.3 points per game, while Derrick Wright chips in 6.6. Elijah White, who supplied a career-high 23 points the season opener, adds 6.3 points.
Permian will need all its contributors when the team the first game of the playoffs.
Tim Thomas said his main concern is for the team to play its game no matter the opponent or venue. El Paso Coronado holds a 20-9 record and finished third in District 1-6A. The Thunderbirds are averaging 55.4 points per game and their leading scorer is 6-5 senior guard Brandon Cartwright-Li at 13.4.
“We are excited to try to match wits and we are excited that we have the opportunity to keep playing,” Tim Thomas said. “We are focused on them, because they are in the playoffs, but the main focus all year has always been us. I always tell the kids that we are our toughest opponent and we are the toughest competition that we play against.”
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