Buffaloes run to win over Central Catholic
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Central Catholic.
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Central Catholic coach Bruce McConaghy didn’t receive the kind of welcome back to Clemens High School he would probably have hoped for, but that had nothing to do with hospitality or holiday spirit.
The host Buffaloes (4-0), ranked No. 2 in the Express-News area poll, overwhelmed the inexperienced Buttons (4-6) Nov. 29 in Schertz. Clemens broke open a tight game early with 16 unanswered points and cruised to an 87-52 victory.
“I’ve been back here before,” said McConaghy, who coached Clemens from 2000 to 2005. “It’s not that big of a deal. But it was a good time. There are a lot of good people here.”
Central Catholic used eight players in the contest, only one of whom saw significant playing time last season as the Buttons posted a 25-8 record. Guards Joseph and Jaime Nava are out with injuries.
In fact, the lone returning starter, 6-foot-10 Tony Lewis, was not fully healthy for the non-district game. The senior was coping with an injury to his left leg.
“He’s a good player,” third-year Clemens coach Clifton Ellis said. “We wanted to take him off the spots where he was used to catching the ball. We knew he was ailing a little bit. We felt we needed to make him get up and down the court a little bit, so we could minimize his size a little. We did a good job of that.”
Lewis finished with a team-high 12 points for Central Catholic. Senior guard Tanner Nagel (11 points) was the only other Buttons player in double figures.
Clemens had five double-digit scorers, led by backup post Devante Ford with 15. Three were substitutes.
“They’re doing well,” McConaghy said. “They have a good, strong team. Coach Ellis is a great coach and he’s doing a good job with them.”
The Buffaloes return their top five scorers from last year’s Class 4A state semifinalists.
They staked out a 7-2 lead, but the Buttons battled back to tie it 7-7 on a three-pointer from Nagel. A basket from Lewis in the paint and a driving layup from Julian Rodriguez (8 points) tied it once more at 11-11. Lewis supplied another tying hoop with 1:16 remaining in the first quarter.
“Central Catholic gave us a good look,” Ellis said. “They slowed us down. They forced us to play (a different style). We like to get the ball upcourt as fast as we can.”
Clemens scored the next 16 points, including a closely guarded three-pointer from Mitchell McMullen at the first-quarter buzzer. By halftime, the Buffaloes led 39-19.
“That was big because that’s when we were (struggling),” Ellis said of McMullen’s basket. “The things we were trying to do weren’t really working, but you’ve got to keep playing, and eventually they will.”
Central Catholic scored the first five points in the second half on a driving basket from Rodriguez and a three-pointer by Charlie Lopez. Two free throws from Lewis pout the Buttons within 42-26 with 6:33 left in the third quarter.
Another buzzer-beating, three-pointer – this time from Darrell Harris – increased Clemens’ lead to 71-38 when the quarter ended.
“They’re really coming along,” Ellis said. “The younger guys have some good guys to learn from and the older guys are approaching things the right way. We’ve got some good depth.”
Central Catholic scored the game’s last eight points. Aguilar made a driving layup, Robert Elizondo sank a three-pointer, Nagel notched a layup and Lopez made two free throws.
McConaghy said his main emphasis going forward was for the team to play as a unit.
“We’ve been playing pretty well,” McConaghy said. “We didn’t do some things today. After that first quarter, it was downhill.”
The Buttons defeated La Vernia (1-2) 63-48 Nov. 25 as Rodriguez scored 16 points. Lopez contributed 11 points. Aguilar and Nagel scored nine points apiece. Lewis did not play.