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Greyhounds make return to playoffs

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, February 18, 2012

For the storied Slidell Greyhounds basketball program, it’s been an unusually long absence from the playoffs.

This year’s seniors were in the eighth grade, and junior Trent Garrett was a seventh grader watching his older brother play in the postseason.

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE - Slidell's Cord Hankins attempts a layup. The Greyhounds will start the playoffs Tuesday against Ector. Messenger photo by Mack Thweatt

“It’s been a long wait,” Garrett said. “I’ve never been to the playoffs in anything. I’m finally getting to experience it.”

The Greyhounds (24-6) will play their first playoff game since 2007 against Ector. The Class A Division II Region III bi-district game is tentatively set for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Sadler at S&S High School.

The game could move depending on the outcome of Friday’s girls playoff games.

A season ago, the Greyhounds finished 10-22 and out of the playoffs. Slidell did win three of its final five.

Over the offseason, Todd McCormick came from Paradise to take over the boys basketball coaching and athletic director post. Quickly, the Greyhounds took to his up-tempo pace, winning five of their first six games.

“The kids played extremely well and bought into what we were doing,” McCormick said. “It’s been all about them and their commitment to the program.”

The Greyhounds fought through non-district, taking on mostly larger schools. Slidell entered district play with a 14-4 record.

“We were playing bigger schools, but we got some wins under our belt,” McCormick said. “It built their confidence. The kids thought they could play with anybody.”

In District 17-A play, the Greyhounds rolled through everyone outside of Midway, who handed them their only two league losses. Slidell went 10-2 in the district. Only one of the Greyhounds’ district wins was by less than 10 points.

Slidell didn’t depend on just one player on that run. In district play, the Greyhounds had seven different leading scorers. Eight different players started.

“I told them before our first game of the season that I felt we really didn’t have five starters,” McCormick said. “It was very evident during the district run.”

The team lost two of their leading scorers for a game, Garrett and Tyler Maynard, after a car wreck on Jan. 2. The two escaped serious injury. Dylan Carnes also missed action with a high-ankle sprain.

“There was always something going on, but our kids were mentally tough and bounced back,” McCormick said. “Someone was always there to pick up the slack.”

Aaron Leake led the Greyhounds in district play with 12 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.5 steals. Six different Greyhounds averaged nine points.

“We’re all pretty equal,” Leake said. “We’re not really deep with eight to 10 of us. But we run a lot and keep going.

“We’re real aggressive. We’re not the tallest, but we’re quick. We try to use it to our advantage.”

McCormick said it became almost a running joke with him telling his squad that the opponent would be bigger and more athletic before each game.

“Everyone we played was bigger,” the Slidell coach said. “I think it motivated them.”

McCormick said the Greyhounds will give up some size to Ector. But he hopes their full-court press can create turnovers.

“We have to run them off the three-point line and limit them to one shot,” McCormick said. “Our press should hurt them a bit. That will be a key.”

In their playoff debut, the Greyhounds know they will need to keep doing what they’ve been doing all year.

“We can compete with anyone as long as we play our game,” Leake said. “We just need to play as hard as we can.”

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