By all accounts, the varsity basketball team this year was phenomenal. They made history, they beat the number sixteen team in the country and they made it farther than any team before them.
This season, they made it all the way to the regional championship before finally falling to South Garland. Along the way, they tallied up four memorable wins throughout the playoffs in late February and into early March.
vs. Lakeview Centennial 63-47 (W)
First, in the bi-district playoff round, the Rangers faced the Patriots of Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland. The game was played at Naaman Forest High School in Garland. Even though Lakeview was closer to Naaman Forest, Jesuit actually seemed to have sent more fans, gaining somewhat of a home-court advantage.
The stats reveal just how much Jesuit dominated. They shot 52.3% from the field and 76.9% from the line, easily surpassing Lakeview’s measly 36% and 50%. The Rangers only led by four at the half but quickly grew their lead in the second half. Once Lakeview was forced to foul them, it was already over as Jesuit made free throw after free throw after free throw.
“We came in with a bunch of energy,” said senior Reid Hatzmann. “We were hitting our stride toward the end of district… The Lakeview game was a really important game for the team because it set the tone for how we were going to play in the playoffs.”
vs. College Park 76-55 (W)
Having made it to the area round, Jesuit packed their bags and drove down to Waco to play The Woodlands College Park Cavaliers. The Rangers showed that they can compete even far from home, outscoring the Cavaliers in every quarter. They finished strong with a 19 point fourth, holding College Park to only 8.
The dual shooting threat of Marcus Hill ’18 and Max Abmas ’19 helped propel Jesuit to victory. Both players scored 21 points. Hill in particular hit 5 three-pointers.
“I definitely feel pride over what we accomplished [this season],” Hill said later. “It really was a special season.” He along with Abmas and Jankovich were three-point threats throughout the postseason.
vs. Rockwall Heath 71-67 (W)
The regional quarterfinals were closer to home but still held in Rowlett, very close to the Rangers’ next opponent, the Rockwall Heath Hawks. Both sides filled their stands, and admission had to be capped at 600 fans per side. It was a close battle on the court and in the stands, with the respective student sections chanting at each other the entire game.
Jesuit and Rockwall both went on multiple runs, and the momentum shifted throughout the game. However, what really made the difference was Jesuit’s first quarter in which they established a 12 point lead that Rockwall couldn’t overcome.
Abmas scored a ludicrous 38 points against Heath and hustled down the floor for a legendary block too.
Hatzmann said this was his favorite game in the playoffs: “The student section was great. I never thought I’d be able to do my bowling ball entry at a visiting gym. I think we had more people there than at some home games!”
vs. Dekaney 50-47 (W)
Their win over Lakeview sent them to the regional semifinals, held at Ellis Davis Fieldhouse in Dallas. This would be Jesuit’s toughest match-up so far with Dekaney Wildcats being the fourth-ranked team in the state of Texas and sixteenth in the country. However, the Rangers enjoyed a home court advantage as Dekaney had to travel up from Houston.
This was the most memorable game of the playoffs, not only because the Rangers won the nail-bitingly close game but also because Dekaney made use of an interesting third quarter strategy, holding the ball the entire time. The game was tied at 38 at the half and stayed that way into the fourth quarter because of the very uneventful third.
“The third quarter of the Dekaney game was probably one of the scariest and most nerve-racking quarters of my life,” Hatzmann admitted. “I kept looking over at Coach Hill. We kept making eye contact—I wasn’t doing anything on defense. I was like, ‘Do you want me to pressure, turn our defense into something, what do you want me to do?’ and he told me, ‘No, just let it sit.’ In his mind was we’ll get the ball to start the fourth quarter, we’ll score, and we’ll make sure they can’t do this again. My mindset the whole time was if this is how I play my last Jesuit basketball game, I will never forgive any person in this gym. I was very, very scared and very angry. But if you watch the film, you can see me laughing on the court because our student section started chanting ‘Coach is scared’ and ‘This is boring’!”
But with 15 seconds to go, Jesuit was leading by three. A last-second shot for Dekaney missed the mark and the buzzer finally sounded. Marcus Hill said that this was the high point of the season for him. See the team’s reaction (and the student section falling on top of them) below:
vs. South Garland 50-65 (L)
The Dekaney win sent Jesuit to the regional finals. This was farther than any other Jesuit basketball team had ever made it in the UIL tournament before. Last season, the team made it to the regional semifinals, which itself was historic at the time.
Unfortunately, the South Garland Colonels ended Jesuit’s stellar season. Jankovich led the team with 14 points, with Hatzmann close behind with 11. Usually able to rely on perimeter shooting, Jesuit only made 14.3% of their three-pointers.
Despite this loss though, season was by no means a failure. The Rangers had been on a nine-game win streak since the tail end of district play, so they peaked at the right time.
“The wins and losses, all that speaks for itself,” said head coach Chris Hill. “I think this is the result of the kind of team they were, the kind of kids they were, the kind of teammates they were… I think that carried over to the playoffs. When things got really tight, there was a mission. They really wanted to keep going.”
Coach Hill can confirm. It was truly a special group and a special season.