By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
GARLAND – It was a night of firsts for the McKinney Boyd Broncos.
With 4:05 left in the first quarter of their boys basketball playoff game Tuesday night, senior Mikel Parish hit a long three-pointer for the first playoff points in program history. With 1:44 left in the first, a Parish free throw gave the Broncos a 9-8 lead, the first lead in a playoff game in program history.
Unfortunately for the blue and red faithful, a 59-48 defeat to Richardson Berkner marked the first playoff loss in program history, ending the Broncos’ historic season in the UIL Class 5A Region II Bi-district round.
Boyd finished the season with a record of 20-10, becoming the first team in the program’s seven-year history to win 20 games and make a postseason. With nine seniors playing their final game in a Bronco uniform on Tuesday night, Boyd head coach Dean Christian was at a loss for words to describe what this group did for the up-and-coming program.
“They are the best class that I have ever had,” said Christian. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if I would have the toughness and the work ethic to do what they did, without any previous reference or any type of standard to go by. They single-handedly changed our program.”
In a rematch of a non-district game back on Dec. 4, which saw the Broncos win at home 58-50, Boyd was able to hold Berkner’s star senior Soma Edo to just 12 points, while Martez Butler and Faisal Mansour combined to score 25 points for the Broncos.
On Tuesday night, Edo, a Fresno State signee, led the Rams with 16 points while Mansour scored just three points. Butler was held to zero points and fouled out late in the fourth quarter, playing through foul trouble most of the night.
“We got in foul trouble early with our inside guys, and that kind of changed the completion of the game,” said Christian. “Martez was never really able to get going tonight, and that was the difference between last game and this game.”
Despite giving up some considerable size to Berkner, the Broncos came out ready to go from the opening tip. Parish made the first nine points of the game for Boyd, including two long three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. After Edo got a tip-in to go to tie the game at 12, senior Chris Stanton made a lay-up with time running out in the first quarter to give the Broncos a 14-12 lead.
The two teams traded points back-and-forth to begin the second quarter, as the Rams continued to get the ball inside the paint to either get a layup or draw a foul. With the game tied at 18-18 with 4:30 left in the half, Soleman Zazay hit a long three-pointer to give the Rams a three-point lead, proving to be the final lead change of the night.
Down 27-24 at the break, the Broncos pulled to within one early in the third after two free throws by Grant. The good vibes didn’t last long though, as Berkner went on a 9-2 run to extend its lead to 36-28, capped off by a crowd-pleasing dunk by Edo.
Boyd didn’t fall away as the Broncos continued to stay with the Rams, as a steal and the classic three-point play by Daylon Markham with 1:39 left in the third pulled them to within three. The Broncos would go into the fourth quarter down by just three after Parish tipped in a shot with two seconds remaining to make it 40-37.
The fourth quarter was not friendly to the Broncos, as Berkner began to draw more and more fouls, ultimately shooting 18 free-throw attempts in the quarter. Before a Boyd timeout with 4:36 left, the Rams were on an 8-1 run that included four free throws and an alley-oop dunk to Edo. The Rams led by as many as 13 points in the final quarter, as it was just a matter of time before they could begin celebrating their playoff victory.
The Rams had four players in double figures in scoring, including Keenan Evans and Torey Everett with 12 points, and Kendal Harris with 10. For the Broncos, Parish led the team with 17 points while Grant finished with 12.
After the game, Christian talked about some of his senior’s performances in their final high school game, including Parish’s stellar night.
“He had a great senior night and I am really proud of him,” he said. “He stood tall for us all year and he did his thing tonight. I thought Faisel (Mansour) had a tough shooting night and I don’t think Michael (Grant) played up to his expectations. You can’t get it done against those guys with just one player.”
Despite shooting 66% from the free throw line and turning the ball over 15 times, the Rams were able to dominate most of the night because of their post presence and ability to make shots in the paint. 32 of the 59 points scored came from inside the paint for Berkner, compared to just 20 of 48 points for Boyd.
Christian said after the game that Edo may have gotten some calls down low that Taber McFadden and Butler didn’t get, something that can come from referees just not knowing how a certain guy plays his position.
“These are Dallas refs and they are used to watching him play,” said Christian. “They aren’t really used to watching Martez play, and sometimes the difference in the style of games can be a factor.”
Because of the constant foul trouble the Broncos were in, a reason why the Rams went to the free throw line 27 times, Christian said the game plan went away in the second half after being successful in the first half.
“The game plan was to not help off too much because you don’t want them kicking it out and getting three’s, and it worked the first half cause we were in the game. I think Martez and Taber played a total of 10 minutes tonight because both were in foul trouble. It was a tough night for our ‘5’ man and we are already short as it is, so my last resort was Zach Rubel. He did a fantastic job but he isn’t a match against (Edo).”
With the season officially over for the Broncos, Christian said that the accomplishments his team achieved in 2012-13 need no explanation.
“Any time you win more than you win the year before three straight years, you win 20 games, and grab a playoff berth, that stands for itself. I can’t even say enough accolades for these guys.
“They are just incredible.”