ELLIS COUNTY — The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches released its 2016-16 UIL Class 1A through 6A Boys' All-Region and All-State Teams on Sunday.
Nine players from four classifications from the cities of Italy, Maypearl, Midlothian and Waxahachie all received selection nods. Each team went at least two rounds deep in the postseason and five came within four games of an illustrious state championship.
BIG TIME ITALY
The last time the "biggest little city in Texas" reached an UIL state championship game was in 1997 with former Dallas Cowboy Keith Davis among the assortment of Italy's roundball superstars.
With his son, Keith Davis II, and versatile scoring threat Kevin Johnson at the helm and Head Coach David Ervin leading the charge, the Gladiators came within three victories of the program's first title in 20 years and the millennium. They fell to Tenaha High School in the regional semifinal round.
Given their offensive production within Ervin's offensive scheme, it may not be surprising TABC officials voted Davis II and Johnson onto its All-Region team and Davis II onto its 20-boy All-State roster — one of three to be selected in the county.
Davis II, the District 19-2A Offensive Player of the Year, averaged 18.6 points per game and handed out 4.6 assists per game while pulling down 3.4 rebounds per game and nabbing 2.7 steals per game. Johnson, the District 19-2A Defensive Player of the Year, scored 16.1 ppg and had 3.4 apg, 6.1 rpg, 3.7 spg.
'PEARLS LONE PANTHER
Behind All-Region selection Tanir Horton, Maypearl High School finished the 2016-17 season 22-10 overall and 11-3 in District 17-3A and reached the area round of the UIL playoffs for the first time since 2007.
During the 10-point loss to Jarrell High School, the TABC No. 3 boys 3A basketball team, Horton scored 16 points, pulled down six rebounds and had two steals. He averaged 17.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 3.3 spg in 27 contests, which lead the team in scoring above fellow senior Brandon Wright (12.3 ppg) and juniors Tariq Massey (10.5 ppg) and Jake Wiggins (10.0 ppg).
His best game of the season came against North Hills Preparatory Academy when he scored 23 points and pulled down a season-high 18 rebounds.
LIFE WAXAHACHIE'S DEADLY DUO
The scariest thing may not be that Justin Nimmer and Joshua Sanders are All-Region selections. It may be that they are only juniors and will return with two years of deep playoff experience.
Nimmer, the Mustang's 6-foot-6 point guard, and Sanders, a dominating 6-foot-5 inside presence joined players from Abilene Wylie, Brazosport, Burkburnett, Estacado, Graham, Kennedale, Seminole and Witchita Falls Hirschi High Schools.
'They also helped lead Life Waxahachie High School's varsity basketball team — alongside key players like Daniel Nguyen, Armani Holmes, Bryan Moreland, Tavon Spears and Robin White — to the regional semifinal round for the second consecutive year.
More than any city outside of Waxahachie, Midlothian placed more boys in the All-State and All-Region lists and nearly reached the hallowed state championship hardwood of San Antonio's Alamodome in two different classifications.
Two of those boys were from the city's newest institution, Midlothian Heritage High School.
One, Kerrion Fields, is a two-sport star that nearly reached the UIL football state championship game in December and the other, Michael Holland, was the 4A regional tournament MVP. Both boys helped Midlothian Heritage claim a share of the District 8-4A title and 32-6 overall and 12-1 district finishes.
Holland, the Jaguars' 6-foot-3 senior double-double machine, was the second Ellis County player named to the All-State team.
The city's elder institution, Midlothian High School, also had its own name called on "All-Region Selection Sunday." Panther junior Kaden Archie joined Mansfield Timberview High School's Tim Johnson and Chris Mullins, Lancaster High School's TJ Starks and Waxahachie's Larry Wise as one of four District 10-5A All-Region repersentatives.
Eighty-one players were chosen from five groupings of teams throughout the state.
Arguably one of the state's most dynamic players, Archie averaged 18.7 ppg, pulled down 5 rpg, had 2.9 apg and 1.6 spg in 34 games. His season high in scoring came against Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas on Dec. 27 when he scored 31 points.
There may no basketball future brighter in the state than the Mean Green of Waxahachie. That statement could also be made despite the loss of do-it-all senior Xavier Thompson II, cool, calm and collected floor general Corey Walker Jr. and bench spark Tyriq Alston.
Of all the talent that made up the city's near state championship machine — juniors Montre Gipson, Mar'Quaylen Grant, Jaylen Warren and Tevin Wofford and sophomore Demani Richardson — only Wise, the Runnin' Indians' junior District 10-5A MVP, was selected to the All-Region Team.
He averaged 12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 2.1 apg in the regular season but stepped his game up a notch in the playoffs. He helped power Waxahachie past both Midlothian and West Mesquite High Schools during the regional quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.
His last second shot against Mansfield Timberview — the eventual 5A champs — in the 5A regional final would have swept the Wolves in the season series and propelled the Runnin' Indians to their first state tournament berth since Head Coach Greg Gober won it in 1983.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.