The Amarillo High boys literally started the District 3-5A season a step behind everybody else Tuesday night.
But that only made it all the more apparent that the Sandies are the ones everybody else is pursuing.
Hosting crosstown rival Tascosa to start district play after drawing the open date to start district last Friday, Amarillo High showed why it’s No. 5 in Class 5A and the to beat in 3-5A. The Sandies never trailed in jumping out to an early lead and weren’t threatened in soundly beating Tascosa 60-43.
Amarillo High (24-3, 1-0 in district) faced a dual challenge of getting up emotionally to face a traditional rival while also getting into gear to start the real season.
“I don’t know that I would have picked my rival to open district with since we have five new starters and guys in different roles,” said veteran AHS coach Jason Pillion. “That’s probably what I was most proud of. I told them that district basketball’s a little different. Playing in front of a packed gym is not the same as playing in a tournament in an empty gym.”
The Sandies appeared totally up to the transition from then opening tip. They jumped out to an 18-5 lead at the end of the first quarter as Tascosa (11-14, 0-2) never found an offensive rhythm.
While the Sandies graduated three Division I signees from last season, the experience they had returning carried the way.
Junior Braden Hausen, whose older brother is now a freshman at Villanova, got Amarillo High’s offense going with three 3-pointers in the second quarter and led the Sandies with 17 points. Pillion’s son Cooper, now a starter after being a key player off the bench had 15 points.
“I thought you saw some nerves from both teams, but overall we did a good job of kind of settling down,” Pillion said. “I thought we rebounded really well and gave ourselves an opportunity to be in the right position.”
Balance and depth proved to be a huge advantage for Amarillo High. The Sandies used all 12 players on their roster and 10 of them scored.
Tascosa, on the other hand, was a one-man show, although it was an entertaining one. Jailyn Sledge had a game-high 29 points, including 19 in the second half, as he kept the game from getting too far out of hand and entertained the Tascosa side of the crowd with three dunks.
However, the Rebels had only three other players score.
Tascosa 5 12 28 43
Amarillo High 18 34 49 60
T– Jailyn Sledge 29, Will Dickerson 9. AHS– Braden Hausen 17, Cooper Pillion 15. Records: Tascosa 11-14, 0-2. Amarillo High 24-3, 1-0.