The Coppell boys basketball team was working to get into game shape when they had played Flower Mound Marcus on Dec. 19.
Coppell was only four days removed from quarantine after COVID-19 concerns within the Cowboys’ basketball program had forced in-person practices to be cancelled for two weeks. However, Coppell head coach Clint Schnell didn’t use that as an excuse. He said that his team had its chances in a 45-38 road loss.
“It was a game that we felt like we let slip away,” he said. “We didn’t feel like that we had played our best.”
Marcus coach Shane Rogers credited his defense for limiting the number of opportunities that Coppell had to dribble penetrate to the basket.
“We did a good job of handling their ball handlers as they tried to penetrate gaps, both on the ball and as help defenders,” he said. “We controlled the rebounds and played without fouling, for the most part, which are all ingredients for success for us.”
It was a statement win for a Marcus program that is headed in the right direction under their third-year head coach.
Success is the foundation for what Rogers is striving to build at Marcus. The Marauders made the playoffs a year ago under Rogers, a 2008 graduate of Marcus. And with six key returners off that team returning this season, Marcus boasts the experience to make a playoff run.
Of course, first thing is first.
The Marauders are ready to stake claim to the District 6-6A title. However, in order to do that, they’ll have to defeat the reigning back-to-back champion. The Cowboys aren’t ready to give up their place on top of the throne.
Coppell has turned around its season in a big way since that loss, rattling off eight straight victories to forge a tie with Marcus atop the 6-6A standings.
Schnell cites better team chemistry as the primary reason why his Cowboys are 12-2 overall and 6-1 in district. Marcus checks in at 13-5, 6-1. He said the players have a better understanding of their roles.
“We’re not relying on pure talent to win games,” he said. “The kids are starting to gel a little more. The ball movement has been better than it has been all year. You can tell that the team chemistry is starting to come together.”
That sense of togetherness was transparent Tuesday, when Coppell started fast and never took its foot off the pedal in a 70-40 rout of Plano West. Junior Ryan Agarwal paced Coppell with 22 points. Junior Nazir Brown put together another dominant effort with 21 points as he continues to fit in well with Coppell in his first season in a Cowboy uniform after transferring from L.D. Bell. Junior Anthony Black contributed 11 points.
Coppell’s 30-point victory comes after they had won each of its previous three games by six points or less.
“The guys had a lot of energy,” Schnell said. “We came out and set the tone. We finally had a game where we got up and finished them off.”
Efforts like the one that Coppell received from depth players like Alex Ninan showed how much confidence that Schnell has in his Cowboys, who seek their third consecutive district title. Friday’s game against Marcus could go a long way to determining the winner, and Schnell knows that it’s a big game. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.
“Hopefully we’ll be more locked in, more focused,” Schnell said “We want to show what we can do.”
Like Coppell, Marcus recently put together an extended winning streak of its own, having won seven consecutive games before being tripped up by Flower Mound, 30-28, last Friday. That midseason push has earned the Marauders the No. 24 ranking in Class 6A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. Coppell checks in at No. 25.
“Another year of doing very similar drills, with minor tweaks to make it better, high work ethic, and leadership by the coaches and players can go a long way,” Rogers said. “In no way are we surprised by our season so far.”
Rogers understands the implications that surround Friday night’s game.
“It will be a tough game,” he said. “They have some really good players and are well-coached. They will be on a mission to show they can score the ball at a higher rate than they did last time, and vice-versa from our perspective.”