in Boys Basketball

Hoping to make a move toward their second straight playoff berth, the Clifton Cubs drop two key District 17-3A games to top teams Maypearl, Whitney

Although results from two second round District 17-3A games last week did them no favors, the 2022-23 Texas high school boys basketball season remains far from over for the young Clifton Cubs. But without a doubt, the Cubs will be fighting an uphill battle down the stretch with every game serving up a do-or-die scenario.

Facing the top two teams in the district last week, the Cubs (3-5 in district, 9-15 overall) dropped a decisive 61-44 decision at home against the second place Maypearl Panthers (6-2, 18-12) last Tuesday before battling to a disappointing 60-55 loss to the arch-rival and league-leading Whitney Wildcats (7-1, 18-12) on the road last Friday night.

Hoping to snap a three-game losing streak and climb back into contention, the Cubs will host the West Trojans (1-6, 1-19) in a crucial postponed matchup on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., moved from Tuesday due to the icy winter weather event across North and Central Texas. Then after an open date in the schedule on Friday, the Cubs will hit the road against Waco Harmony Science Academy (0-7, 0-13) at 7:15 p.m. Feb. 7.

“It’s still anybody’s guess, and I don’t see it settling any time soon,” Clifton boys basketball head coach Tom Daniel said. “The district race remains wide open at this point. The top six teams are so close in our district. It’s going to come right down to those last couple of games – the last day of the season, I’m sure.”

Opening the second round of district last Tuesday in the Clifton High School Gymnasium, Maypearl jumped out to a commanding 24-8 lead in the first quarter and never looked back as the Cubs trailed 36-22 at halftime. After the Panthers extended their advantage to 20 points in the third period, Clifton rallied in the fourth, but it proved too little, too late.

Junior Andres Devora and sophomore Ray Ochoa led the Cubs with 10 points apiece, followed by Jacob Wells with seven, as well as sophomores Brody Baggett and Jonah Payne with five each.

Falling behind early at Whitney last Friday night, the Cubs battled the entire game to stay close but trailing by eight after three quarters of play. Even though Clifton outscored Whitney, 19-16, in the final period, the Cub rally fell short.

Sinking six three-point shots, junior Jacob Wells led Clifton with a game-high 24 points, followed by Devora with 11, Ochoa with eight and Baggett with six.

Using an impressive defensive display, the Cubs surprised the Keene Chargers, 31-26, Jan. 17 to create a four-team tie for second place. But on the road three nights later, Clifton struggled from the opening tipoff in a 79-44 loss against the Grandview Zebras (5-3, 9-15) to wrap up the first round of district.

Against Keene (5-2, 21-7), the Cubs held onto a one-point lead at halftime and fell back into a deadlock at the end of the third period before outscoring the Chargers, 8-3, down the stretch in the fourth to pull out the crucial victory. Clifton used 18 steals to slow down Keene’s ability to score, limiting the number of shots they put up.

“There wasn’t a lot of scoring in the game,” Daniel said. “It was Keene’s lowest scoring game of the season. It happened to be ours too, but luckily, we had a few more than they did.”

Baggett led Clifton with 10 points, seven rebounds and seven steals, followed by Devora with nine points, a team-high nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. Sophomore Joaquin De la Hoya also pulled down nine rebounds while dishing out four assists, and Ochoa collected five steals.

“We turned the ball over too much, and didn’t shoot the ball great,” Daniel said. “But we made up for it with great effort on the defensive end. Without a doubt, it was out best defensive game of the season. In the second half, we only gave up eight points against a pretty good team.”


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