Fast start clinches 4-4A playoff berth for Canyon in win over Randall

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Canyon guard Gage Lunsford looks to drive during a clash against rival Randall on Tuesday night. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
In part two of the much-anticipated Canyon ISD boys basketball series between Canyon and Randall, the Canyon Eagles started just as strong Tuesday as they finished the first time the two teams met.

It was no surprise, then, that the result was the same, and come to think of it, the way it’s been in district play for the last three seasons for Canyon.

The Eagles jumped on Randall early, scoring the first 19 points of the game to spark a 62-47 victory. Not only did No. 7 Canyon complete a District 4-4A sweep of No. 18 Randall, but the Eagles also stayed unbeaten in district and clinched a playoff berth with four games remaining in the regular season.

It’s been the same old song for Canyon (23-2, 10-0 in district) going back three seasons, as the Eagles have won 30 straight district games, matching their celebrated girls counterparts on campus. Now they know they’re heading to the playoffs again.

It came in a particularly pitched atmosphere at Canyon’s Joe Lombard Gymnasium which led to a playoff-like atmosphere.

“It’s Randall, you know what I mean,” said Canyon coach Travis Schulte of the intensity of the rivalry. “I’m sure they feel the same way about us. We just wanted to get a W tonight. I know the whole cliché coachspeak, and we wanted to go 1-0 tonight. I’m just super proud of these guys.”

Canyon head boys basketball coach Travis Schulte, from left, and assistant coach Brandon Jones celebrate during a big win against Randall on Tuesday. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
The first time the two teams met at Randall in early January, the Eagles closed the game with a 10-0 run for a 59-50 victory and take sole possession of the district lead. While points can’t be carried over from one game to the next, add up Tuesday’s start with the first game’s finish, and Canyon went on a 29-0 run against Randall (20-9, 8-2).

Canyon took a 19-0 lead as everything went right for the Eagles and went wrong for the Raiders. Kelson Jones led Canyon with seven points in the first quarter and a rout looked highly probable.

That early standard was so high, that the Eagles couldn’t possibly keep it up, but it was a huge factor, nonetheless.

“It definitely helps your confidence,” Schulte said. “We were scoring at will and I think that’s a little bit of the issue why we didn’t score as well in the second quarter. Everything we shot in the first quarter went in and we started taking maybe a little but more quick shots because our confidence was so high. We had to slow it down a little bit and share it a little bit more.”

Randall recovered to score the last seven points of the second quarter to make it more competitive. However, Canyon maintained a double-digit lead most of the half and led 32-22 at halftime.

The Raiders made their biggest threat in the third quarter thanks mainly to K.J. Thomas. While Thomas didn’t have as tremendous a game as he did in the first meeting when he torched the Eagles for 33 points, he stilled carried Randall by scoring 11 of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter.

Randall cut the lead down to four in the third quarter and an outrageous comeback looked possible. But the Eagles regained their bearings, and when Chris Bryant hit a 3-pointer from the top of the circle late in the quarter, Canyon finished with a 48-40 lead, and the Raiders never got within five in the fourth quarter.

After the poor start, Randall coach Leslie Broadhurst admitted he wouldn’t have minded a do-over.

“If someone could set that up for us we’d meet ‘em here tomorrow night,” quipped Broadhurst after the game. “We’d like to start it over again and I wish that were possible. But that shows the character of our team. We didn’t quit and challenged them a little bit and they responded in a very difficult setting.”

In the end, though, it was Canyon who held up. For the second straight time against the Raiders, guard Evan Hughes led the way, as he scored 19 points, with seven of them coming in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.

“They’ve been rivals since junior high and a lot of them I used to play with so it’s kind of more competitive than normal trying to get back at each other,” Hughes said. “I think they bring a little bit more out of me. We went into this game treating it as a gold ball game and it feels good to know we’ve guaranteed a spot.”

Jones and Bryant both had 15 points for Canyon. Randall’s Jaxon Tonilli came off the bench to score 10 points, all in the first half.

Randall     7  22  40  47
Canyon  19  32  48  62
R– K.J. Thomas 23, Jaxon Tonilli 10. C– Evan Hughes 19, Kelson Jones 15, Chris Bryant 15. Records: Randall 20-9, 8-2. Canyon 23-2, 10-0.

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