It's never too early for the pecking order in the district standings to start taking shape and Texoma Christian was in prime position to earn one of those type of victories.
The Eagles have undergone some changes from last season, whether due to graduation or transfers, and boast a roster that is thin on upperclassmen — just one senior and one junior among the bevy of sophomores and freshmen.
The non-district portion of the schedule showed a team trying to find its way and fill out roles while dealing with some injuries.
“Sometimes some success isn't good when you're young,” Texoma Christian head coach Nate Langenbahn said. “We have a really young group and we're going to make young mistakes.”
And while there were some miscues in their latest outing, the Eagles were able to overcome them down the stretch for a 52-43 victory against Dallas Lakehill in TAPPS District 2-3A action. “I call that a hangover game,” Langenbahn said. “The last two games we played really, really well. We did some things today we don't normally do.”
Thomas Barnett scored 18 points, Charlie Zeis, the lone senior, added 14 points and Kason Williams had 13 points for Texoma Christian (10-10, 3-0), which will play at Dallas Yavneh on Tuesday night for sole possession of first place.
“We're learning and getting a little bit better every game,” Langenbahn said. “They've already exceeded my expectations through the start of district play. 3-0 is 3-0 and I'll take that. This is promising for what this group might do.”
Mitchell Crow scored 11 points before fouling out while Matthew McCall and Cullen McCaleb each finished with eight points for Dallas Lakehill (9-7, 2-1), which joins TCS and Yavneh has the only teams with a winning district record.
The Warriors had little answer inside for either Barnett or Zeis. The duo combined for 23 of TCS' 30 points in the first half — Barnett with 13 and Zeis with 10.
“They've started getting a great chemistry,” Langenbahn said. “They look for each other well.”
Williams was the only other Eagle to make a shot in the first 16 minutes and outside of the trio, only Michael Tan and Bryce Ryeczyk scored in the game with all seven of their points coming on free throws.
The Eagles held a 14-point advantage on Barnett's layup a little more than a minute into the fourth — their largest lead of the game — and it was a 13-point deficit for the Warriors with 3:56 remaining after Williams drilled a three-pointer from the right side.
From that point TCS was forced to hang on. McCall answered immediately with a three and Crow hit two free throws to get Lakehill within single digits. The Eagles were in the middle of a drought — the Williams three was their only scoring for four minutes until he made a free throw with just over two minutes to go.
McCaleb followed with a three-pointer and Texoma Christian's lead was down to 44-40 with 1:24 to go.
Zeis scored underneath to make it a two-possession game with a little more than a minute on the clock and when Lakehill couldn't convert on its ensuing possession, the Eagles burned almost 30 seconds before the Warriors fouled. A jump ball after a free-throw miss led to a pair of technical fouls on Lakehill's Ryan Henry and Williams made two free throws to push the lead to eight and seal the victory for TCS.
Texoma Christian took a 38-26 lead into the fourth quarter when Williams hit a three-pointer from the right side with 13 seconds remaining in a frame that was very choppy as the teams combined to score only 13 points — five of them by Lakehill, which made just one shot in the final three-plus minutes after both offenses didn't produce anything for the opening half of the third.
The Warriors made a run in the middle of the second quarter to pull within a point. Barnett converted a three-point play as TCS went up 19-11 and then Lakehill scored eight of the next nine points, including six straight as the deficit was down to 20-19 with 2:40 remaining in the first half.
TCS responded with a 10-0 run of its own. Barnett and Zeis each converted three-point plays as the Eagles led 30-19 before Nathan Lewis broke the streak on a drive to the basket with 12 seconds to go in the frame to trim the margin to single digits at the break.
Lakehill's last lead of the game was on Crow's steal and score for a 5-4 margin minutes into the contest. Hamed El-Feky tied the game at seven when he took a steal in for a layup moments later.
From that point, after a pair of free throws by Tan, the Eagles were in front to stay and most of it was a comfortable margin after a late run in the half.
Texoma Christian, which went 10-of-11 at the free-throw line in the first half, held a 16-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter off a Barnett putback in the closing seconds to cap a 9-0 run.