BOYS BASKETBALL: Permian sets sights on No. 13 Keller High for area playoffs

Anthony Thomas said after the Permian basketball team’s Class 6A bi-district victory against El Paso Coronado the players enjoyed a moment of posing with their trophy in the locker room.

However, once the players set foot on the bus, their only thought was on No. 13 Keller High.

The Panthers play the Indians in the area round at 7 tonight in Clyde.

“Right after the game, we took a bunch of pictures, but as soon as we got on the bus, we had to get back to work,” Thomas said. “We can’t celebrate for too long. We were going to take that win and celebrate it while we could in the locker room and when we get back on the road, it’s business now.”

Justin Hammond, a sophomore guard, relished the win but his mindset also shifted to the next opponent.

The Indians — the District 3-6A champions — hold a 28-2 record and they have averaged 61.9 points per game. Permian improved to 22-11 after its bi-district win.

“We just have to go into tomorrow and be hungry and humble,” Hammond said. “We are trying to make it to state and one win isn’t enough for me or my teammates.

“The win was great. It was my first playoff win and I was excited to get that trophy, but after that night I had to forget about that and get ready for Keller.”

Not being content with one win is part of the process Permian boys basketball coach Tim Thomas talked about when he took over the program two years ago.

For many players on the varsity roster, the area round is new territory. The Panthers have missed the playoffs nine times and hold three bi-district victories in the 21st century.

Tim Thomas is no stranger to postseason runs. He led Lubbock Estacado to its first state tournament appearance in 2004. He also helped Temple to the Region 2-5A final in 2010. A year later with Cedar Hill, he reached the Region 1-5A championship game and lost to eventual state champion Lewisville Marcus, which featured current NBA point guard Marcus Smart.

“This is new to these guys so they don’t know how to act,” Tim Thomas said. “We are trying to teach them and tell them what they are supposed to do. We have to approach it the same from game to game. The main thing about the playoffs is you don’t have to do extra things that you hadn’t done during the regular season. What we need is extra energy, extra hustle, extra communication with your teammates, extra love for your teammates and extra encouragement for your teammates.”

Permian also left its comfort zone when the team practiced Thursday at the OC Sports Center.

Hammond believes it was positive to practice away from the friendly confines of the Permian Fieldhouse.

“In playoffs, we play at all types of gyms,” Hammond said. “Instead of practicing at our home gym, it’s best for us to come here and get that feeling of a different court.”

In their bi-district victory, the Panthers held three of El Paso Coronado’s top scorers to nine points. Those three players averaged 27 points throughout the regular season.

Permian will have its hands full with Keller’s top threat — R.J. Nembhard. The 6-foot-4 senior guard is signed to play basketball at TCU. Nembhard scored a team-high 26 points in a 60-44 victory over Mansfield in the bi-district round. The Indians defeated the Panthers 59-53 in their last area playoff meeting in 2014.

“We played Keller my freshman year,” Anthony Thomas said. “They are going to come out and play. We are going to come out and play. May the best team win.”

The Panthers have found a level of consistency throughout in their last 11 contests.

Tim Thomas knows the Panthers will have to play their brand of basketball, which is predicated on hard work, defense and team basketball, when they step onto the court to face Keller.

“We have a tendency to kind of wait and see and by doing so, sometimes we allow teams to go on runs and then we have to battle back,” he said. “We want to do what we do. If they took the name off of our jerseys, we want people to know it’s Mojo basketball on how we play. The kids have been doing a good job of that over the last third of the season.

“It’s a fun time and it’s great to be in the playoffs, but the caveat is there isn’t a redo. You’ve got to go and play.”

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