Three's A Charm
Feb 20, 2015 02:28PM ● Published by Dia
By EJ Holland
THE MCDADE ERA BEGINS TO TAKE FORM
It’s no secret: when it comes to Southlake Carroll, football reigns supreme. One of the state’s most storied traditional powerhouses, Southlake Carroll has hoisted the state championship trophy eight times since 2000 and sent numerous players to the NFL. Around Texas, teams know to respect black pants and blonde hair as the playoffs come around.
But there is another boys program making noise around the area. Southlake Carroll basketball has been on the rise over the last few years and is possibly on the verge of having a true breakout year under third-year head coach Eric McDade.
“It’s always hard to compare sports,” McDade said. “Football has a great tradition, but at Southlake Carroll we have tradition in a lot of areas, whether its academics, the fine arts or other sports. We’re just trying to get there. It’s a process and a grind, but I think we’re on our way.”
McDade has been on a mission since he first took over at Southlake Carroll in spring of 2012. One of the state’s top coaches, McDade led his teams to the playoffs in 12 of his 13 seasons as head coach, including a trip to the 2009 Class 4A state tournament at Mansfield Timberview.
His most recent stop was at Duncanville, where the Panthers made the playoffs in each of McDade’s three seasons but lost each season to two-time state champ and three-time state tourney qualifier Flower Mound Marcus in the second round.
A year before McDade arrived, Southlake Carroll finished 16-17. The Dragons last district title came back in 2002.
“We’re always looking to build the program. I had a great experience at Duncanville, but I also brought what we did at Mansfield Timberview,” McDade said. “This is my 19th year coaching, so with experience comes patience, and the kids respect that. We always take things one game at a time and make sure to work toward our goal.”
Southlake Carroll saw incremental improvements in Year 1 of the McDade era, going 19-14 and making appearance in the playoffs. Arlington Martin bounced the Dragons in the first round, but momentum has started to build. Southlake Carroll once again finished with a winning recordlast season and although it missed the postseason, McDade saw flashes of potential in his squad for the 2014-15 season as numerous key contributors were set to return.
So far, so good. Nearing the end of January, The Dragons are 13-10 overall, 4-2 in district play and are riding a three game winning streak that includes victories over Colleyville Heritage, Haltom and most recently L.D. Bell—a 56-33 beat down that saw Southlake Carroll play arguably its best game of the year.
“We have a great senior class that provides a lot of experience and leadership. What really has given us the opportunity to succeed is balance,” McDade said. “This team is built on defense. We can guard you man-to-man, we can play zone, and we can pressure you. We have a lot of guys that can score, too.”
Balance is right. Southlake Carroll averages 56.6 points per game and gives up 54.3 points per contest. Guards Hunter Summey and Kirk Mason both average more than 12 points per game and post players like Holden Taylor, the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-6, keep getting better and better as the season progresses.
“Hunter has shown great growth as a leader and is one of our main guys in our offensive attack. Kirk Masson gets to the hole and is a great attacker,” McDade said. “Holden Taylor has been a big surprise for us down low, and Austin Smith is coming along, too. So we just have to keep improving.”
The Dragons got off to an up-and-down start to the year. After a season-opening loss to Justin Northwest, they took part in the prestigious Magnolia Tournament down in the Houston-area, where they notched wins over San Antonio Edison and Alief Taylor, but also suffered losses to Conroe and Spring.
Following a solid road win over rival Grapevine, the Dragons faced the machine that is Plano West. The Wolves, one of the top teams in the state, feature a slew of Division I prospects, including Texas A&M commits DJ Hogg and Tyler Davis. Despite falling 70-52, the game acted as somewhat of a turning point.
Southlake Carroll started to believe it could compete with anybody and won five of its next six games, with its lone loss coming to state ranked Cedar Hill in the Lions Club Tournament.
“We played a very tough non-district schedule,” McDade said. “We played against some top level programs. We went down to Houston for the Magnolia Tournament and played some great competition. Then we played ranked teams like Plano West and Cedar Hill. We also picked up a big win over Plano East in the Whataburger Tournament. It all gets you prepared to play at a certain level during district play.”
What makes Southlake Carroll’s early season performance even more impressive is the fact that the Dragons weren’t at full strength. Key players like Lil’ Jordan Humphrey, the team’s second leading scorer with 12.8 points per game, were late joining the team because of their commitments to other sports.
“Our biggest improvement has just been getting all the guys together and building chemistry,” McDade said. “We had three football players join us and one tennis player. So you have the guys that have already been in the gym, and the guys that are just coming over. It’s kind of like we’re on our third team because of all the in-season additions. But I really like the way this third team is looking.”
Now, McDade hopes this third team is the charm as they hope to advance to the third season, also known as the playoffs. The Dragons are currently tied for second place in District 7-6A, only trailing Richland, a team they lost to 65-52 on the road in early January. Their only other district loss was to new bunkmate Euless Trinity by six.
Southlake Carroll will have an opportunity to avenge both of those losses in February. And if the Dragons can finish the year strong against foes they’ve already beaten, there is no reason they can’t make a deep run in the postseason.
“The way we look at it, the first season is over. We’re in the second season, so we’re just trying to stack up district wins and keep growing as a team,” McDade said. “After the second season is over then we can start thinking about that third season. But we have to stay patient and keep working.”