BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Halifax Academy Knights’ record-breaking season ended with a loss to Odessa’s Keystone Prep in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Feb. 22.
Halifax went 22-8, winning the most games in school history and made the playoffs for the first time in six years.
“We just had a good group of returners. The kids also worked hard and really bought into a team first mentality. We had players doing things to do what it took for us to get better,” said Shamus Dougherty, the boys’ head basketball coach and the school’s athletic director.
Dougherty has headed the program for the past 15 years.
‘We got a taste’
Winning games and making the playoffs was an awesome experience for the players.
“I think they enjoyed it and it opened their eyes despite the traveling. We lost to bigger teams – not just better skill-wise. We now see what it takes to get better. We have a lot to work for. We can’t be complacent,” Dougherty remarked.
Junior guard Terrell Franklin echoed, “It was a wonderful experience breaking the school wins record and going to the playoffs. We got to see how the tough teams were away from our area. We got a taste. I think we should be ready and fired up for next year.”
Franklin (14 ppg, 4 apg) transitioned from shooting guard to point guard this season and led the team.
He said, “It was tough. I had to do a new role. I never played point guard before, which affected my scoring. Last year, we had a point guard. I accepted the role and did my part to make us better.”
Some other key contributors for the Knights include juniors in 6-foot, 1-inch forward Michael Highsmith (13 ppg, 9 rpg) in the post along with guards Chauncy Williams and Dominiq Northington, who helped with shooting and ball handling.
The team ball mentality made this year’s squad special from teams in the past. Halifax averaged 13 assists per game as a team.
“The last time that we were in the playoffs we had a few kids that were college bound. In recent years, we had a player who could score 20 points and we just put pieces around them. This year we played eight deep with two to four players who could score in double figures as well as two or three guys who could grab double digit rebounds for us,” noted Dougherty.
The Knights’ success flew truly under the radar with little if any publicity.
Dougherty admits, “It frustrates the kids sometimes seeing everyone else recognized. The bigger schools get more press. Father Lopez is the only small school that really got press with a good team. We only get box scores. I think it kind of helped our kids get to a higher standard. We just kept winning and accepted the underdog role. They got a chip on their shoulder.”
Halifax fielded a team that could shoot but lacked both a go-to player and size.
“We shot the ball well from the outside. We didn’t have a go-to guy, but we had a few capable scorers, which made it difficult for teams to defend us. On the flip side, with our lack of size and our post players being just 6’1” and 6’3”, respectively, we struggled against bigger teams especially in the post season,” Dougherty explained.
The season wasn’t all smooth sailing for Halifax.
Franklin said, “We actually started slow and didn’t really know each other that well. We did some things on and off the court, which bonded us and built our chemistry. Then we grew as a team and got better.”
Can the Knights build upon this year’s success for a bright future?
“I think we have a good corps of returning players next year with four juniors and an eight-grader who found his way into the rotation. We also have a few freshmen that could play bigger roles next season,” Dougherty added.