in Boys Basketball

Clifton junior Seth Payne named District 17-3A boys basketball Offensive MVP, senior Luis Rodriquez named to first-team, junior Griffin Phillips placed on second-team

Although the Clifton Cub boys basketball team came up just short of qualifying for the Class 3A state playoffs for the first time in 16 years, the Cubs earned accolades for their efforts.

Leading the way among the All-District 17-3A honors, junior Seth Payne was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player, senior Luis Rodriguez earned first-team, all-district recognition, while junior Griffin Phillips was placed on the second-team, all-district. Honorable mention recognition went to senior Cameron Bateson and junior Jorge Rodriguez.

Clifton players named to the Academic All-District squad included Cameron Bateson, Makail Brandenberger, Ellison Li, Seth Payne, Griffin Phillips and Will Simmons.

As Clifton (4-8 in district, 14-9 overall) finished fifth in district behind postseason qualifiers Lorena, West, Riesel and McGregor, Payne led the Clifton in scoring (19.0 points per game), rebounding (8.8), assists (5.0) and steals (2.3), followed by Phillips with 9.3 points per game and 5.2 rebounds, and Rodriguez with 8.3 points per game.

After a rash of injuries in district stalled a promising start during the 2019-20 season, the Cubs open the 2020-21 season with a 10-game winning streak and looked impressive outscoring opponents by 15.9 points per game.

“I don’t think anyone expects to win 10 straight to start the season,” Clifton boys basketball head coach Tom Daniel said. “But I know these guys and how hard they play together, how hard they fight and how much they wanted it. So, it didn’t shock me that we got off to that start.”

But then, the Cubs were shut down due to Covid-19 precaution protocols the week before the Christmas break. After re-emerging from an 18-day hiatus, the Cubs dropped back-to-back District 17-3A games to McGregor, 32-27, and Riesel, 61-45. After rebounding to knock off Troy, 58-48, on Jan. 5, Clifton closed out the first round of district with three straight losses to West, Lorena and Whitney before falling at McGregor, 43-27, to open the second round.

Snapping a four-game skid, the Cubs won three of their last five games to battle back into postseason contention with back-to-back wins, outlasting Riesel, 52-46, in overtime, and dominating Troy, 57-22.

But dropping two straight at home against West, 57-43, and Lorena, 48-41, eliminated Clifton before closing out the season with a 60-45 victory over Whitney.

While the Cubs stayed at home, District 17-3A champion Lorena (12-0, 26-6) just missed a trip to the Class 3A State Tournament March 12-13 in San Antonio’s Alamodome, losing in the Regional Semifinals to East Chambers.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight every night out,” Daniel said. “We had Lorena coming into the district after moving down from 4A, and Riesel won their district last year. Every team in our district was solid.”


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