By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
They’re here, this young group of question marks that took over the basketball court at Frost — right here in the thick of the playoffs.
Some might be and even Frost Coach Eric Blenden understands why.
“I haven’t been surprised but I think some people in the Golden Circle area might be surprised a little that we’re in the playoffs,’’ said Blenden, whose Polar Bears face Blum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night in the Whitney gym in the Class 1A DII Area round of the playoffs.
It’s hard to believe only because Frost lost so much from last year’s regional finalist team that was one step away from making the state tournament.
The Polar Bears lost three starters, including Daniel Steels, who was the Golden Circle Player of the Year.
It was impossible to replace Steels, but Frost also lost Jacob Stroder and Andrew Jackson, seniors who had played varsity basketball for years and who were keys to the program.
“You had players who had started for three years,’’ Blenden said. “And you are replacing them with kids who haven’t had much time to play because of the players in front of them.’’
There were question marks early and Frost started late because of its football success.
“When you have this many new players you have to re-order the scoring chart,’’ Blenden said. “Last year, I knew I would get 20 from Daniel and 12 from Jacob and 10 from Andrew. With this team you never know where the points will come from.’’
That’s one of Frost’s strengths.
“We have five or six guys who can score,’’ Blenden said. “You can’t stop just one guy. It’s been fun trying to figure out who we are.’’
They have replaced experience with balance and a desire to get better. That’s just what they did — they got better and better ...
“We weren’t very good at the beginning of the year,’’ Blenden said. “We got a late start because of football and struggled early on, but about halfway through the season we decided we were going to be pretty good. It’s been fun watching them grow.’’
The turning point came in one of those games Frost didn’t shine.
“The first time we played Aquilla (in the district race) we didn’t play well at all. It was by far the worst game we played all year,’’ Blenden said. “But we still won. You have games like that, games when nothing goes right. Whenever things aren’t going well and you still find a way pull it out it says a lot. When we won that game, that’s when I found out what this team was all about. Since then we’ve been running the table.’’
The Polar Bears (19-7) have won nine of their last 10 games and are coming off a 64-29 win over Milford in the bi-district round of the playoffs on Monday.
Clayton Colton led the way with 20 points. Robert Worley scored 14 and Zach Terry dropped in 11. Ryan Worley added nine and Isiah Belcher and Tyler Stevenson scored five each for Frost.
The Polar Bears have had a different leading score almost every night. Robert Worley, a senior who started last year, leads the team with a 12.3 points per game average, and freshman Kobe Hailey has averaged 11.2. Clayton, Belcher, Terry and Ryan Worley are all averaging about nine points a game. They have shared the ball, shared the scoring and shared the growth of a team that knows it belongs.
The group grew up together on the court and made defense a first and free throws a priority.
“We’re shooting free throws a lot better,’’ Blenden said. “Early on we were shooting 48 percent, and we’ve been shooting 65-70 percent during this run.’’
Frost is different this season, but give these kids credit. They have found their own identity. That’s why the Polar Bears are here.
“I think (the doubt from others) was to be expected,’’ Blenden said. “We were one game away from going to the state tournament, and now you look up and see four new faces this year.
“But I think this team has come out and proven some people wrong.’’