FAST BREAK

in Basketball

After just missing the playoffs last year, the Clifton boys basketball team opens 2020-21 season with eight straight wins

CLIFTON — If their fast break out of the tipoff to the 2020-21 Texas high school boys basketball season can serve as an indication, the Class 3A Clifton Cubs could be on their way to ending a 15-year postseason drought.

After a rash of injuries in district stalled a promising start last season, the undefeated Cubs have broken out with an eight-game winning streak and have looked impressive in doing so. Led by junior Seth Payne, senior Luis Rodriguez, junior Griffin Phillips, freshman Bradin Yates, junior Jorge Rodriguez and senior Cameron Bateson, Clifton has outscored opponents by 17.2 points per game.

With back-to-back home games this week, Clifton (8-0) will be tested by the Dublin Lions (4-2) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Clifton High School Gym before hosting the Rio Vista Eagles at 6:45 p.m. Friday.

In the midst of a five-game home stand, the Cubs extended their winning streak by taking down the Class 4A Gatesville Hornets, 50-41, Saturday. Clifton jumped out to a commanding 24-12 lead in the first half, survived a strong third period from Gatesville before securing the victory in the fourth.

Luis Rodriguez tossed in a game-high 18 points and swiped seven steals, Payne added 16 points, a team-high five assists and seven rebounds, while Bateson pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.

Clifton began last week with a hard-fought 81-74 double overtime win over the Rapoport Academy Meyer Ravens last Tuesday behind a triple-double from Payne, who scored a season-high 28 points while pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. Phillips added 16 points while Rodriguez tossed in 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and came up with a team-high four steals.

Trailing by 10 entering the final period, the Cubs outscored Meyer, 22-12, to force overtime, held their own to tie in the first extra period, before putting the Ravens away with a 10-3 run.

After that wild contest, Clifton took care of business in a resounding 44-12 victory over the Class 2A Meridian Yellowjackets Friday as Rodriguez scored a game-high 17 points, Payne dished out five assists and sophomore Makail Brandenberger pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.

The Cubs opened the season with a 50-41 victory over Veritas Academy in Austin Nov. 14 as Payne tossed in 20 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and dished out five assists — all team-highs — while Rodriguez added 11 points and Yates grabbed nine rebounds.

Payne scored 24 points while accumulating 11 rebounds, six assists and six steals in a dominating 52-26 victory at Meridian as Phillips and Rodriguez tossing in 10 points apiece. Payne provided another strong performance in Clifton’s 63-29 victory over Groesbeck by leading the Cubs in scoring (23), rebounds (6), assists (5) and steals (7).

After playing back-to-back games on the road, Clifton returned home to knock off the Class 4A Godley Wildcats, 46-41, Nov. 21 as Payne scored a game-high 26 points and dominated the boards with 11 rebounds.

Running their winning streak to five straight before the Thanksgiving break, the Cubs rolled past the Hamilton Bulldogs, 52-37, on the road as Payne tossed 17 points, followed by Phillips with 15 while Jorge Rodriguez and Luis Rodriguez added nine points apiece. Phillips led Clifton with eight rebounds while dished out eight assists.

With District 17-3A competition opening right after Christmas, the Cubs will begin their quest to advance to the postseason for the first time in 15 years by hosting the McGregor Bulldogs Dec. 30 at Clifton High School Gym. But with state-ranked Grandview gone, the district will have a new look following the UIL realignment.

According to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason district picks, 19th-ranked Lorena (6-1) entered the season as the favorite, followed by McGregor, Troy and West. Lorena moves down for Class 4A, McGregor and Troy move in from District 19-3A, Riesel crosses over after placing second in District 18-3A, while West and Whitney return to 17-3A along with the Cubs.

Photos by DAVID HARDING

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