Don Newton isn’t sure what to expect from his team tonight when the Longview Lobos open the Class 5A playoffs with a bi-district skirmish against the Nacogdoches Dragons.
“The only thing I know for sure is we’ll show up and play hard,” said Newton, who will lead the Lobos against the Dragons in a 6 p.m. contest tonight at the Tenaha Special Events Center. “I can always count on my kids doing that. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come to Longview and coach. The kids here are going to compete regardless of the situation.”
The situation, this time around, was an unscheduled week off thanks to Mother Nature and the ensuing now and below zero temperatures here in East Texas.
The Lobos (14-11) last played on Feb. 12, earning a 39-37 tune-up win over Bossier (Louisiana) High School. They didn’t gather again for a game or practice until this past Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we had just had our best practice of the year and then went out and beat one of the better teams we’ve played all year but we didn’t have a chance to piggyback that momentum until Saturday,” Newton said on Monday. “We were off seven or eight days, got back after it Saturday, didn’t practice on Sunday and just had our second workout in a week today.”
The Lobos have won five of six heading into tonight’s game, including that two-point win over Bossier that came when Jalen Hale hit a layup in the final seconds. Hale finished with 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and a block, scoring six of the Lobos’ first eight points.
Caed Liebengood added five points and five rebounds for the Lobos. Marco Washington added six points, four rebounds and an assist, and Kybo Jackson-Jamerson finished with three points, four rebounds and an assist.
Hale and Jackson-Jamerson were two of the Lobos still in football mode when Nacogdoches and Longview met during a regular season game back on Dec. 8 in Nacogdoches. The Dragons won that game, 52-36.
“Nacogdoches is a good opponent,” Newton said. “They beat us pretty good without our football kids earlier in the year. We’re definitely a different matchup now, but you just don’t know how much the layoff will affect us. I’d be naive to believe it won’t have some affect, but we’re all even across the board. I don’t think anyone in our region had a chance to practice before Saturday.”
Nacogdoches (14-12) has also won five of six heading into tonight’s game. The Dragons defeated Tyler, 51-40, to wrap up the runner-up spot in District 16-5A back on Feb. 12.
The Lobos are looking for their first postseason win since the 2013-14 season. Longview defeated Rowlett (75-57) in bi-district play and then fell to Plano West in overtime, 75-65, in the area round.
A year ago, the Lobos opened the playoffs with a 62-54 loss to Waco Midway.
The winner of tonight’s game will face either Highland Park or Red Oak on Thursday in the area playoffs.