FRISCO, Texas -- Carrollton Creekview has had trouble with Frisco Centennial's zone defense since dropping down to Class 4A two years ago.
The Titans do a fantastic job of clogging passing lanes and collapsing to the ball in the paint, making it difficult for the opposition to get off a high-percentage shot.
Creekview's guards decided to go ahead and settle for the outside shots against Centennial on Friday, and their stellar sharp-shooting allowed the Mustangs to finally solve Centennial's 2-3 zone and escape with a 65-60 win.
Creekview (16-11, 6-1) is now in first place in District 9-4A, with the win giving the Mustangs the tiebreaker over Centennial (15-9, 6-1).
"That's the best we've ever done [against Centennial's zone]," said Creekview head coach Jonathan Ellis. "At halftime I was shocked we already had 32 points. I thought that might be our final total."
Its success against the Titans' zone is just one of many examples of Creekview's improvement this season. Last year the Mustangs lost in a playoff play-in game after losing 10 lettermen, but with much of that team returning for 2012, Creekview has improved dramatically.
In nondistrict play, the Mustangs have beaten strong teams such as Highland Park and Rowlett this season, in addition to pushing perennial powers The Colony and Garland Lakeview Centennial to the brink of defeat.
"We have come together as a team a whole lot more than last year," said guard Justin Cueto, the team's leading scorer. "We didn't have as good of chemistry last year as we do this year. This year we all have a year under our belt, so we have a lot more experience and that helps us win games."
Creekview's stellar guards have led the way, and Friday was no different. Cueto scored a game-high 24 points and backcourt teammates Stephen Buckner and Ali Zia added 13 and 10, respectively.
And most of their points came from behind the arc or on long-distance 2-pointers as Centennial's zone was in full force, especially starting off the game.
"They're our go-daddies," Ellis said of his guards. "They are kind of what make us go, and they did a good job tonight. Zia was getting through the creases and finding the ball. They did their job and knocked down their shots."
Centennial led for much of the first half behind the inside/outside play of forwards Alex Terrian (16 points) and Zander Petersson (13 points) on the Titans' girth of set plays.
"We knew they ran good stuff and we spent two days trying to go through all their stuff, but you really don't know it until you see them up close," Ellis said of Centennial's offense. "They're very impressive. They're tough to defend."
But Creekview took a one-point lead into halftime after it held the ball for the final minute of the second quarter before Aaron Brown scored just before the buzzer.
The bucket was part of a 10-0 run by the Mustangs that started at the end of the first half and extended into the third quarter.
That's due in part to Ellis' halftime adjustments. Creekview mixed in some zone to go with its base man defense in the third quarter, and Centennial struggled with it early in the frame.
Creekview took a 12-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Centennial made a final push to get as close as five, but the Mustangs made enough free throws down the stretch to hang on for the win.
"Their zone is the toughest thing we face all year," Cueto said. "It's one of the toughest in the area. We got used to it after awhile."