5-4A co-leader Birdville depending on seniors

The 18-8 season record of District 5-4A boys basketball co-leader North Richland Hills Birdville is a bit deceptive.

Of the Hawks’ eight defeats, seven have come at the hands of Class 5A opponents. That includes three losses to current District 7-5A leader Keller Fossil Ridge, by margins of seven, six and one.

Tuesday’s 51-46 loss to fellow 5-4A co-leader Trophy Club Byron Nelson was Birdville’s first defeat this season at the hands of a team in its own classification.

The Hawks depend heavily on group of seniors that is long on experience and shooting ability and short on height.

“When people see us walk in the gym, we don’t impress them,’’ said coach Jeff Fitch. “Four of our starters are no taller than six feet. But with this group of kids, if I gave them the day off, they’d go to the recreation center to play basketball. They are gym rats.’’

Four of the five starters -- Jimmy King, Cris Sawyer, Jalen Murphy and Aaron Esslinger -- have been teammates since middle school.

*King (5-foot-11) was a first-team all-district selection last year and is third in scoring with an 8.8 average. He leads in assists with 5.5 per game.

*Sawyer (5-foot-11) was second-team all-district a year ago and is the leading scorer with a 12.5 average. Fitch calls him the best pure 3-point shooter he’s coached.

*Murphy (5-foot-9) averages 8.0 points per game and is second to Sawyer in 3-pointers.

*Esslinger (6-foot) is second in scoring with a 12.2 average and is coming off games of 29 and 21 points. Fitch said over the last year Esslinger is the most improved of the group.

Aaron Hughes, a 6-foot-7 post, rounds out the starting five and leads the team in rebounding (5.9 per game).

“Even though we lack a lot of size, these guys know how to make the extra pass and do the little things that give us a chance to win," said Fitch, who learned his trade as an assistant under Tommy Newman at Euless Trinity. "When you have four guys that can shoot the 3s, that’s a big equalizer."

Birdville (7-1 in 5-4A) hosts Azle at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.