The Colony senior Keith Miller III and the Cougars are in a contentious race for 8-5A’s last playoff spot.

Plenty has changed in District 8-5A boys basketball in just one year’s time, between Denton Braswell authoring a possible league title push to Denton Ryan turning in perhaps the most improved campaign of anyone in the conference.

Teams like The Colony and Little Elm have had their say as well, turning in plenty of down-to-the-wire, competitive results over the first half of district play. Both are on the playoff radar, and here’s a look at where the Cougars and Lobos, as well as the rest of 8-5A, stand as the homestretch closes in.

(Editor's Note: Records reflective of games played entering Friday)

Denton Braswell (6-1)

Matt Welch: Much like their counterparts on the girls side of the court, 8-5A basketball has been defined by the Bengal in 2019-20. Aside from a 45-35 setback against Justin Northwest, Braswell has parlayed its experience from last season into a front seat in the race to the conference title this year.

Accruing six district wins by an average of 13.2 points, the Bengals have enjoyed a boost in scoring from Cam Smith, who’s averaging 19.5 points over his last two games.

Braswell gets a chance to avenge its setback to the Texans on Feb. 7 but already has a leg up elsewhere in the district as it seeks its first-ever conference title.

Ryan (5-2)

Bryan Murphy: Although Ryan is fresh off of a rare blowout loss at the hands of Northwest, don’t sleep on the Raiders as a favorite in this district to finish as high as possibly second place.

Coming into the season, many believed either Braswell, The Colony and Northwest were the clear top three squads, but Ryan has made sure to prove any doubters wrong thus far in the district slate with wins over the Cougars and Texans.

Northwest (4-3)

Bryan Murphy: The days of putting the ball into the hands of superstar Avery Anderson’s hands are in the past, but that does not mean this year’s Texans crew isn’t ready to make some noise down the stretch.

Northwest has bounced back with back-to-back wins after a grueling 69-68 loss to Little Elm two weeks ago and very well could be playoff bound behind the stellar play of Julien Smith, who is averaging over 20 points per game in district.

The Colony (4-3)

Matt Welch: The Cougars’ first trip through 8-5A was a bumpy one, complete with a three-game losing streak to the other playoff hopefuls before rebounding with three straight wins against Little Elm, Lake Dallas and Denton.

The Lobos and Broncos didn’t make things easy on The Colony, and that’s been the case for a Cougar squad that has been outscored 347-343 since a 24-point win over Denton in its district opener.

The absence of junior Sean Mathieu has hampered the backcourt a bit, but junior Caden Sclafani, who poured in 21 points against Denton, has stepped up alongside senior Keith Miller III and junior Tay Mosher as viable scoring threats.

Still in control of its own playoff destiny, The Colony looks to conjure some more consistency over the back half of district play.

Little Elm (2-4)

Bryan Murphy: The Lobos have been no stranger to close contests in the last two weeks with a thrilling one-point win over Northwest, a gut-wrenching defeat to The Colony and an eight-point loss last week to the district favorites in Braswell.

With that said, Little Elm faces some pivotal matchups in the coming weeks, starting with a pair of must-win games against Lake Dallas Friday and Denton next week.

With the district race so tight, a loss to either one of those ball clubs could ruin the Lobos’ chances of reaching the postseason all together.

Denton (2-5)

Matt Welch: Despite entering Friday two games back of a playoff spot, the Broncos have already proven capable of putting a scare into a postseason-caliber opponent.

With wins over Little Elm and Lake Dallas under its belt, Denton suffered losses to Northwest and The Colony by a combined seven points and has a pair of scorers in Khoree Mitchell and Cameron Stevenson with 20-point upside, which could make the Broncos a dangerous foe down the homestretch.

Lake Dallas (1-6)

Matt Welch: The Falcons took their lumps over the first four games of district play — a stretch that produced a quartet of double-digit losses to 8-5A’s upper echelon — before toughing out a 65-58 victory over Northwest for their lone conference win.

Led by seniors Yash Mattu, Jaden McGrew and Kobee Minor, Lake Dallas has shown spurts of competitiveness against the district’s playoff hopefuls but has fallen victim to a lopsided quarter here and there that has proven difficult to overcome.

A playoff push will likely be tough to come by, but should the Falcons avoid those pratfalls during the homestretch, springing another upset or two wouldn’t be a surprise.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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