WYLIE — It’s been quite the couple weeks for the Lovejoy boys basketball team.
Since returning from a 10-day quarantine on Jan. 25, the Leopards have played nine games in District 10-5A, including a stretch of eight games in 12 days. Lovejoy hasn’t missed a beat — winning every game since its brief hiatus, including a 77-49 road rout of Wylie East on Tuesday to capture the outright conference championship.
“They’ve done such an incredible job. Eight in 12 days, I honestly have no clue how they pulled that off,” said Kyle Herrema, Lovejoy head coach. “They were running on fumes. We actually had our first practice in two-and-a-half weeks on Monday. We literally went through film, walkthrough, get on the bus and go play.
“It’s been a memorable year for a lot of different reasons.”
FINAL: Lovejoy 77, Wylie East 49@LovejoyHoops closes out the regular season on an 11-game winning streak and capture the 10-5A championship. Karson Templin tallies 20 points along with 13 boards, and Mitchell Weaver adds 13 points, including this crafty finish below. pic.twitter.com/1FIh5IjQY3— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) February 10, 2021
So much so that Lovejoy is suddenly surging heading into the postseason as winners of 11 straight games. They kept their foot on the gas Tuesday against the Raiders, opening the proceedings with a drive-and-kick dish from senior Mitchell Weaver to senior Jeremy Van Riper for a 3-pointer 30 seconds in to trigger a wire-to-wire win for the Leopards.
Lovejoy gained some early separation by holding East scoreless for more than five minutes in the opening quarter, forcing a number of air-balls hoisted from long range. The Leopards were a bit more methodical, assisting on nine of their 13 made field goals in the first half for an eventual 38-21 lead.
“We talk about making our teammates better everyday and being unselfish,” Herrema said. “When we do that and play as a team — you can focus on one guy but when you have to focus on all five, that makes it hard to guard.”
The Leopards have attacked opponents from all angles, with Tuesday’s effort paced inside by sophomore Karson Templin. The forward racked up 20 points and 13 rebounds, overwhelming the Raiders in the paint. He got some help from Weaver, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half to go along with four assists, as well as 12 points off the bench from junior Jax Thompson, and 11 points from senior Carson Holden, who recently surpassed the 1,000-point scoring mark for his Lovejoy career.
“They’ve been such a tight team all year and they don’t care who gets the credit. We just have great leadership with no egos,” Herrema said. “We don’t have to worry about guys not coming ready to work. It’s so much fun. I’ve been blessed with a team that I absolutely love to coach.”
Herrema added that defense and depth have been calling cards during the team’s late-season surge. They showcased as much in their second game back from quarantine on Jan. 26 when they shut down McKinney North, 41-29, to avenge their lone loss in district play. In total, Lovejoy is allowing just 44.6 points per game since returning from quarantine.
The Leopards look to carry their hot streak into the postseason, which starts Feb. 18 with the bi-district round. Lovejoy meets Frisco Memorial at a time and place to be determined.