SPORTS HEADLINES

Basketball: Bridgeport heads west for regional

By Travis Lisle | Published Saturday, March 7, 2015
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Heading to Lubbock Friday, the Bridgeport Bulls join Abilene Wylie (24-7), Levelland (22-11) and Lubbock Estacado (26-7) as the final teams remaining from Region I.

Of the four left standing, the Bulls appear the favorite with their No. 5 ranking in the last 4A Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll. Estacado was No. 6 and the pick to possibly meet Bridgeport in the Region I Final Saturday.

Bridgeport (31-4) will first have to take on the unranked 22-11 Levelland Loboes, who beat Borger, Seminole and Lamesa on their playoff run.

Bulls coach Alan Green says that his team will have a good grasp of the Loboes by tip-off.

“We’ll talk to our guys about what makes Levelland the team they are,” Green said. “We’ll watch film and dissect them. A lot of our talk is going to be about us. How we want to defend and how we want to execute.”

The Bulls use as much film work as possible to help them on a team and individual level.

“Just focus on film and go over the key players,” starting guard Jacob Del Angel explained. “Anytime I have free time I try to get on and see where shots are taken in the game and what players like to do. Are they jump shooters or are they slashers? Things like that can really help defensively.”

Defense is key for the Bulls, with a priority on perimeter defense which Green says is the team’s strength.

The coach also says that his team learned a lot about themselves in their win over Kennedale.

“Kennedale showed us a team that went to the boards hard against us,” he said. “We haven’t seen that in a long time. That was good for us to see and correct for the upcoming game. We have to block out.”

Green also said that Kennedale, with a couple of top jump shooters, showed the Bulls that sometimes you can do everything right defensively and the other team will still score.

With stiffer competition building with every playoff win, the coach said that is a lesson that his team should remember.

“Sometimes against good teams you can play them perfectly and they still make their shots,” Green said. “You just have to keep playing them as hard as you can regardless.”

Because of their defensive prowess, much of the Bridgeport offense is dictated by getting steals and running the fast break.

Being able to wear teams down and strike hard in the fourth quarter is especially surprising from a Bulls team that makes few substitutions.

The Bulls typically only use six to eight players in a tightly contested game, but their ability to remain fast and quick defensively is a testament to their overall stamina.

“I feel like our guys log a lot of minutes and have to play a lot, but that just shows what kind of guys they are,” Green said. “I think Kennedale got a little tired there and the fact that we were still going allows us to get those turnovers.”

The coach said the three-steal, two-minute period that put the Bulls up 13 against Kennedale late in the fourth quarter was their best run this season.

Even more impressive is the fact that the run came in the final minutes of a two-games-in-two-days playoff situation where the Bulls had played a lot of high-intensity basketball in a 48-hour span.

After Bridgeport’s game with Levelland Friday night, Estacado and Abilene Wylie will play for the other regional semifinal championship.

Both Estacado and Wylie were undefeated district champions, while Levelland finished 6-4 in the same district that Estacado won.

Green says that he is excited about the prospect of playing top-tier teams.

“It’s uncharted for me but you certainly look forward to it,” he said. “A lot of coaches go a long time without getting to coach guys of this caliber this deep in the playoffs.”

Though it is new territory for the Bulls, being expected to win and get into the state tournament puts Bridgeport in a unique situation for a program that this year won its second playoff game since 1967.

Regardless of what they should do, the Bulls will need to continue playing with the intensity they showed in the fourth quarter against Kennedale, if they hope to advance.

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