DRC_Braswell Bengals

A year after just missing out on the program’s first-ever playoff win, Braswell was able to shrug off a tough Grapevine team Monday night and advance to the area round with a 63-52 win.

Braswell (26-9) was able to get into a groove early in the game, which allowed coach Nicholas Sekeres’ squad to settle into its game and handle Grapevine’s offense, which relies heavily on the 3-point shot.

“To start off the way we did, I think was really important,” Sekeres said. “To have a two-possession lead early helped us immensely.”

But as the old saying goes, basketball is a game of runs and each time the Bengals looked to start pulling away, Grapevine would get a couple stops on defense and chip away at the lead. At the end of the first half and early in the second half, Grapevine went on a 10-2 run to cut Braswell’s lead to 32-31.

It was the closest Grapevine would get the rest of the way as Braswell kept its collective composure and slowly started rebuilding the lead — a trait Sekeres knows has been his team’s calling card pretty much all season.

“Looking at us, you’d never know another team goes on an 8-0 run or an 8-2 run,” he said. “This is probably the best group I’ve ever had at [keeping its composure], where it’s just next possession on offense, and tonight was a great example of that.”

Braswell had three players finish in double figures, led by senior guard MJ Leslie with 15, junior guard Cam Smith with 12 and junior forward Lezeric Bailey with 11 and game-high 10 rebounds. Sekeres added that Bailey’s performance was nothing short of what they had come to expect as of late as he registered five double-doubles in the team’s last six district games.

It’s the ninth straight win for Braswell, which is 24-4 since the Thanksgiving break. The Bengals can now move past trying to secure the program’s first playoff win and look to make a deep playoff run as the team looks to fine-tune some things after the win.

“We beat a really good team, and I don’t think it was our A-game,” Sekeres said regarding players filling the void for others who were having off-nights.

Now the Bengals’ sights are set on defending 5A state champion Mansfield Timberview — a talented opponent Sekeres said his team is excited to take on.

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