By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
Tigers coach Don Newton thought taking over a program that didn’t win a game the season before his arrival would be the toughest mental hurdle his players would ever face in Corsicana.
The Tigers have one last chance to make the playoffs for the first time in four years Friday night against Nacogdoches in a 16-4A fourth-place play-in game at UT-Tyler.
It will be the sixth time Corsicana (21-11) had a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
“It’s been a tougher mental hurdle than anything else,” Newton said. “We’re learning how to play with the pressure of getting in. It’s a big deal to the program. We haven’t fared well.”
The Tigers were 3-2 at the end of the first half of district play and have lost five straight games since a 58-32 victory over Nacogdoches on Jan. 25. A win in any of their games since would have guaranteed a playoff spot with the Tigers and Dragons entering Friday with 3-7 records in 16-4A.
The first three games in the losing streak were against the teams that have clinched playoffs spots out of 16-4A — Jacksonville (32-1), John Tyler (14-14) and Whitehouse (22-9).
The Tigers had nothing to lose in those games against quality opponents and played well. They led Whitehouse 72-70 and had the ball with 1:45 left and lost. Corsicana was tied in the fourth quarter against John Tyler and Whitehouse.
“There was no pressure in those games,” Newton said. “The pressure has been in the last two.”
The last two games against Nacogdoches and Lindale have provided the biggest mental road blocks. The Tigers expected to win both — were probably favored in each — and played tight, especially in the second half.
The big problem? They didn’t shoot the ball well in either game.
“Our style of play is dependent on outside shooting,” Newton said. “We were holding opponents like Jacksonville, John Tyler and Whitehouse to 30 percent, and then Nacogdoches and Lindale both shot over 50 percent.”
The Tigers’ transition defense against Nacogdoches and Lindale also was poor.
But Corsicana can fix that now. And all the Tigers need is to play four good quarters against the Dragons.
Then all will be well and the Tigers will have their breakthrough.
“We’re not happy to be in this situation,” Newton said. “We are happy to have another chance.”