— By CLINT FOSTER
Lone Star News Group
ALEDO – After powering through the first two rounds of the postseason with wins by five and two points, the Millsap Bulldogs’ run through the Class 2A Region II playoffs came to an abrupt end, Monday. Droves of Bulldog faithful, clad in maroon and novelty bow ties, packed Aledo’s Bearcat Gym, easily outnumbering the fans of the storied Ponder Lions. But loud as they barked, Millsap’s fans could not lift their boys past the regional quarterfinals as the Bulldogs fell to the Lions, 65-43.
Millsap’s bow-tie-sporting head coach, Josh Jones, said he could not have been more proud of his team after the game.
“You look at a group of young men that have come from three wins two years ago and six wins last year to being in the regional quarterfinals. That’s a huge testament to them and what they’ve accomplished,” said Jones. “Ponder is a fantastic team and they executed. We got a little hurried offensively in the first half and weren’t able to do the things we wanted to do.”
Millsap struggled to find an answer to Ponder’s aggressive press defense that forced turnovers and propelled the Lions to a 13-0 lead to start the game.
Junior forward Dalyn Clanin was the catalyst for the Bulldogs’ offense early on. He finished with 10 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Guard Nich Channer came on strong near the game’s end, scoring five of his seven points in the fourth quarter, and was and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe.
Senior captain Jaxon Martin scored a team-leading 16 points – most in the second half – and excelled at finding the free throw line, where he sunk 8-of-9.
“He’s done a great job all year long,” Jones said of Martin. “The ‘C’ on his chest means something dramatic to me. He led us all year long.”
With the loss now in the books, Millsap will turn its attention to continued improvement for next season. The Bulldogs return vital pieces, including junior starters Clanin, Michael Rogers and Aaron Peninger.
But with returning players also comes stiff competition in Millsap’s new home in District 11-3A next season, which features the likes of basketball powers Brock, Glen Rose, Hillsboro and Peaster, among others.
Ultimately, Jones said his goal is for his program to mirror that of the team that just ended Millsap’s 2013-14 campaign.
“We’ve got to get on the level of the Ponders,” he said. “In our (new) district, it doesn’t get any easier. So, we’ve got to have commitment to continue to work as hard as we did this year to get that much better.
“I’m proud of the guys for getting [as far as they did], but we want to get further than this.”