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Bulldog Basketball clinch playoff, first time since 2009

By Brady Keane BCC Contributor

The Bandera Bulldog basketball team fulfilled a long standing goal with last Friday night's victory over the Navarro Panthers, clinching a playoff berth for the first time in five years.

"It feels really good," senior point guard Jonathan Raitz said. "But we can't settle for just making it in. We set a goal at the beginning of the year and we aren't going to stop till we get there."
So far this season the Bulldogs have thrived on the play of leading scorer Ty Neff and his ability to open up the inside for posts Noah Nelson, Averie Mansfield, and Corey Jennings. The offensive balance between the inside and outside game is a weapon that not many teams can match, and the Bulldogs have utilized the advantage all season long.
"Having a balanced attack on offense gives us more opportunities to get open looks at the basket," Neff said. "It definitely gives us an advantage over our opponents.
The Bulldogs playoff clinching win was an intense one, as senior Desmond Smith and the Navarro Panthers came to play. Smith went for 32 of Navarro's 49 points, and was able to almost single handedly bring the Panthers to victory. However, the Bulldog defense stepped up late and was able to pull out a one point victory by the score of 49-48.
"Communication is big," Raitz said. "Ty did a great job on him, but when a guy is shooting every possession, it's really hard to shut him down. As a team we need to do a better job of helping on screens and rotating in and out of help side defense in the future."
The Bulldogs were able to hold on to a big first half lead against the Panthers, but again allowed an opponent to storm back in the second half. In the three district losses this season, the Bulldogs have built big first half leads and taken those leads into the fourth quarter before falling behind in the final minutes.
"From here on out it's more important than ever to finish games strong," Neff said. "Soon it's going to be a one game season, and we can't afford to give up leads late in the game."
The game changing play to put the Bulldogs ahead came on a put back basketball from Mansfield late in the last minute of the game to put the Bulldogs up by two points. Navarro came within one before missing a long three pointer to win the game as time expired.
The high powered Bandera offense was held under 50 points for just the second time in district play against the Panthers. Mansfield led the way with 17 points, followed by Raitz with 10, Neff with 8, Nelson with 6, Jennings with 5, and senior Marshall Beightol with 3.
The win put the team at (4-3) in district play with three games remaining this season. Bandera traveled to Fredericksburg on Tuesday for another chapter in a growing rivalry, and will finish out the season in Wimberley tomorrow night and in Canyon Lake next Tuesday night.
"We need to continue to work hard throughout the remainder of the regular season to ensure we get the best seed possible going into playoffs," Nelson said.