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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Texas high school basketball season enters its final chapter this weekend, as the UIL’s 2022 Boys Basketball State Championships tip off Thursday at the Alamodome.

SBLive Texas will preview all the action ahead by breaking down the battle for six state championship trophies and analyzing each of the 24 teams left in contention before state semifinal matchups begin Thursday and Friday.

Below is a closer look at the four remaining contenders — Calvert, Graford, Irion County and Texline — in the UIL’s Class 1A Boys Basketball State Tournament including game times, players to watch, keys to victory and how each team advanced to state.

(Featured photo by Clara Sandoval)

STATE SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS:

Graford (35-3) vs. Calvert (26-4), 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio

Irion County (33-3) vs. Texline (33-3), 10 a.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio

1A State Championship Game:

Graford/Calvert vs. Irion County/Texline, 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio

RELATED: Keep up with the 2022 UIL Boys Basketball State Championships with SBLive’s Texas high school basketball statewide scoreboard


Graford Rabbits

Region III champions, 1st seed in District 21-1A

35-3 overall, 10-0 district record

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Bi-District — W 87-17 vs. Prairie Valley

Area — W 74-55 vs. Saltillo

Regional Quarters — W 54-25 vs. Cumby Miller Grove

Regional Semis — W 53-30 vs. Huckabay

Regional Finals — W 30-27 vs. Dodd City

LAST STATE TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE (TOTAL):

2015 (8)

DISTANCE TO ALAMODOME:

280 miles

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Junior F/C Collin Roberts; Senior F Trent Lemley; Senior G Teagan Ford

KEYS TO VICTORY:

The Jackrabbits are making their eighth state tournament appearance and first since 2015, but will still be searching for their first state championship in program history when they take the court at the Alamodome. Graford steamrolled through the early portion of its postseason slate, demolishing Prairie View and Cumby Miller Grove in the bi-district and regional quarterfinal rounds of the playoffs, respectively, by a combined 99 points. The Jackrabbits rolled to four straight blowout wins to begin the postseason before eking past Dodd City in a 30-27 regional championship victory. It was an uncharacteristically close call for Graford, which has throttled the overwhelming majority of its opponents during the 2021-22 campaign. In their 35 victories so far this season, the Jackrabbits have beaten their opponents by 35.9 points per game. However, they’ve been similarly dominant in tight games too. With its win over Dodd City in the regional championship game, Graford improved to 4-0 this season in one-score games. Even though the Jackrabbits did not face many regular-season challenges, they have proven that they can deliver in crunch time. Offensively, the squad has also shown an ability to bury its opponents during an active 19-game winning streak. During the streak, which dates back to late December, Graford has scored 72.4 points per contest and topped the 85-point mark on nine separate occasions. The team has also stymied opposing offenses during that stretch, limiting opponents to 26.5 points per game. The biggest advantage, though, for the Jackrabbits heading into the state tournament will be their depth. Graford owns the deepest bench among the 1A teams advancing to state with a 13-man rotation that features four seniors and three juniors. Junior center Collin Roberts poses matchup nightmares for Graford’s opponents as a 6-foot-7 glass eater who also provides a reliable inside-scoring presence. The Jackrabbits will also look to utilize his length defensively along with senior forward Trent Lemley (6-foot-4), junior forward Matthew Goen (6-foot-2) and senior guard Marc Matthews (6-foot-2).

RELATED: 2022 Texas High School Boys Basketball Playoffs — 1A State Tournament Bracket


Calvert Trojans

Region IV champions, 1st seed in District 29-1A

26-4 overall, 16-0 district record

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Bi-District — W 91-36 vs. Runge

Area — W 75-61 vs. San Perlita

Regional Quarters — W 68-27 vs. North Zulch

Regional Semis — W 53-38 vs. Trinidad

Regional Finals — W 52-46 vs. McMullen County

LAST STATE TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE (TOTAL):

2015 (5)

DISTANCE TO ALAMODOME:

175 miles

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Junior G/F MJ Thomas; Senior G Kaiden Bridges; Junior F Antonio Porter; Sophomore G Kevondre Corona

KEYS TO VICTORY:

Perhaps no 1A team will enter the state tournament with more momentum than Calvert. Since stumbling to a 3-4 start amidst a difficult non-district schedule to begin the 2021-22 campaign, the Trojans have caught fire winning 23 games in a row. They have not lost a game since mid-December and remain unbeaten this season against other 1A schools within Texas. Aside from a 75-43 blowout loss to Magnolia (Arkansas), Calvert’s three remaining losses have each been by single digits to considerably larger schools like Center (4A) and Nacogdoches Central Heights (3A). The Trojans possess one of the state’s most potent offenses in Class 1A led by one of the most prolific scorers in Texas high school basketball this year. Junior forward MJ Thomas has been virtually unstoppable for Calvert on both ends of the floor throughout the season, but his offensive efficiency has continued to ramp up during a dominant late-season stretch. Thomas has averaged 23.2 points, 18.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.4 blocks and 2.4 steals per contest in 27 appearances, and converted at least 50% of his shot attempts in 26 games this year. Since the start of February, though, the Trojan’s star 6-foot-7 junior has tallied nine consecutive double doubles highlighted by a triple double in a 98-29 bi-district playoff win against Buckholts that featured 26 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists. Thomas has accounted for 23.8 points, 17.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.0 blocks and 2.2 steals per game on 60.0% shooting and 79.4% shooting from the free-throw line in Calvert’s five postseason wins to date. The Trojans will also lean heavily on guard Kaiden Bridges, the team’s only senior, and sophomore guard Kevondre Corona. Bridges (16.5 points, 7.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 steals) and Corona (11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.0 steals) will be integral parts of their team’s offensive and defensive gameplan. Bridges, who serves as the team’s primary ball handler and distributor offensively, and Corona are the team’s two most reliable perimeter shooters. Both have registered shooting percentages above 50% from the floor throughout the season, while Bridges and Corona have connected on 39.3% and 44.8% of their 3-point attempts, respectively. The guard duo also leads the squad in steals, and the pair will have to deliver defensively to slow down or stop opposing offenses looking for a spark in transition. For Calvert to bring home its second state championship trophy and its first state title since 2012, the Trojans will look to dictate the pace of the game and force their opponents to grind it out against them in the halfcourt. The team’s 3-2 zone defense, which is flanked by junior forwards Antonio Porter (6.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists) and Cohan Thompson (4.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals) and anchored down low by Thomas, presents favorable mismatches for Calvert against opposing offenses due to their collective size and speed. If Thomas is able to make an impact on the game away from the ball and the Trojans are able to maintain their physical defensive style after allowing 41.2 points per game during the postseason, Calvert should be able to overcome a limited eight-man rotation that could be seriously tested by foul trouble.

RELATED: 2022 Texas high school boys basketball playoffs — Class 1A Region I, Region II brackets

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Irion County Hornets

Region II champions, 1st seed in District 11-1A

33-3 overall, 10-0 district record

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Bi-District — W 92-25 vs. Santa Anna

Area — W 72-36 vs. Fort Davis

Regional Quarters — W 58-42 vs. Balmorhea

Regional Semis — W 58-39 vs. Electra

Regional Finals — W 68-37 vs. Hermleigh

LAST STATE TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE (TOTAL):

1961 (2)

DISTANCE TO ALAMODOME:

227 miles

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Junior G Trevin Coffell; Junior G/F Bo Morrow; Junior G Jordan “JJ” Harrison; Senior G Parker Conner

KEYS TO VICTORY:

Irion County charges into the state tournament seeking its first boys basketball state championship in school history while making its first state semifinal appearance in program history too. The Hornets lost in quarterfinals during their last state tournament appearance in 1961 when the state tournament field featured eight teams. Irion County has marched deep into the postseason in each of the last three seasons, winning multiple playoff games three years in a row. The Hornets were bounced from the 2021 Texas boys basketball playoffs after a one-point loss to Eula in regional quarterfinals. They also made back-to-back runs to the regional semifinals in 2019 and 2020 where they were knocked out of the postseason by Jayton twice in a row. Irion County has been one of the state’s most dominant teams during the second half of this season, though, and enters the state semifinals amidst a 20-game winning streak. All of the squad’s wins during the streak have been double-digit victories with the Hornets outscoring their opponents by 37.6 points per contest and tallying 66.8 points per game offensively. Irion County has been particularly dominant since reaching the postseason in 2022. The Hornets have outscored their postseason opponents by 33.8 points per game in five playoff victories, and their closest win was by 16 points against Balmorhea in the regional quarterfinals. Despite making the program’s state tournament for the first time in half a century, Irion County owns one of the most veteran-heavy lineups in this year’s state tournament field. The team’s rotation boasts four juniors and three seniors, who are led by a collection of four coaches’ sons: junior guards Trevin Coffell and Jordan “JJ” Harrison, junior forward Bo Morrow and senior guard Parker Conner. Coffell, son of Irion County head football coach and assistant boys basketball coach Don Coffell, was named regional tournament MVP for his performance during the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2022 Texas boys basketball playoffs. He scored 18 in the regional championship game against Hermleigh and 22 in the regional semifinals versus Electra, averaging 20.0 points per game on 65.0% shooting and a 40.0% clip from behind the 3-point line. Harrison, son of assistant boys basketball coach Shawn Harrison, dropped a team-high 19 points, five 3-pointers, three assists, three rebounds and one block in the Hornets’ regional championship victory over Hermleigh. Coffell and Harrison will play big roles for the Hornets again in the state tournament and will be called upon to lead a stout defensive unit. With five of the squad’s seven most experienced players standing at 6-foot or taller, the Hornets will continue to place an extreme emphasis on defense and crashing the boards, which should help highlight the team's length on both ends of the floor. The Hornets are only yielding 33.2 points per game defensively in five postseason victories after limiting opponents to 30.2 points per contest in 31 regular-season games. For the Hornets’ record-setting season to continue with the first state championship game appearance and/or state title in program history, they will have to keep up their defensive dominance and shoot more efficiently than their state tournament opponents. Irion County has been remarkably consistent on the defensive end during the playoffs, but the team cannot afford to allow prolific opposing offenses to draw it into a shootout.

RELATED: 2022 Texas high school boys basketball playoffs — Class 1A Region III, Region IV brackets


Texline Tornadoes

Region I champions, 1st seed in District 3-1A

33-3 overall, 12-0 district record

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Bi-District — W 101-33 vs. Hart

Area — W 97-42 vs. Hedley

Regional Quarters — W 91-77 vs. Springlake-Earth

Regional Semis — W 68-39 vs. Whitharral

Regional Finals — W 52-34 vs. Jayton

LAST STATE TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE (TOTAL):

2021 (4)

DISTANCE TO ALAMODOME:

620 miles

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Senior G/F Will Luther; Senior F Noel Lozano; Junior G Elias Espino; Junior G Stratton Potter; Junior G Angel Herrera

KEYS TO VICTORY:

The Tornadoes enter this year’s state tournament as the defending 1A state champions after the team defeated Slidell 54-53 in the 2021 state title game. Texline returns five of six most experienced players from its 2021 state championship team, all of whom average at least 8.9 points per game. Key returners for the Tornadoes this season include three players who earned 1A All-State Tournament honors last year: junior guard Elias Espino, junior guard Stratton Potter and senior forward Will Luther. Luther, who was voted MVP of the 1A state title game in 2021, scored eight points during the final 40 seconds and sank the same-winning 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to give Texline its first state championship since 2015 and second state title in program history. Luther (20.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists) and senior forward Noel Lozano (15.3 points) each recorded double doubles in the Tornadoes’ 52-34 regional championship victory against Jayton. The senior duo’s length and athleticism helps Texline spread the floor offensively, allowing the Tornadoes to attack from the perimeter or post up in the low post. They’re buttressed by a talented trio of junior guards in Espino (15.3 points), Potter (8.9 points) and Angel Herrera (9.4 points) with significant postseason experience also allows Texline to play at an aggressive tempo and provides the squad with a bevy of shooters at different positions. That’s helped turn the Tornadoes into one of the state’s most prolific offenses. The team has cracked 100 points on six separate occasions throughout the 2021-22 season and enters the state tournament averaging 75.8 points per game this year. In the postseason, Texline has cracked the 90-point mark three times and averaged 81.8 points per game, collectively outscoring its opponents by 36.8 points per contest in five victories. For the Tornadoes to successfully repeat though, Luther and Lozano (both 6-foot-4) must lead the way defensively and keep successfully crashing the boards against a group of opponents with sizable height and length advantages. Texline has not lost to a 1A team yet this season; the Tornadoes’ three losses during the regular season were to Amarillo Palo Duro (5A), Clarendon (2A) and New Home (2A).

Editor’s Note: *2019-20 UIL Boys Basketball State Championships canceled due to onset of COVID-19 pandemic


More of SBLive’s 2022 Texas High School Boys Basketball State Tournament coverage:

Class 6A State Tournament bracket | Class 5A State Tournament bracket

Class 4A State Tournament bracket | Class 3A State Tournament bracket

Class 2A State Tournament bracket

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