CEDAR HILL, Texas -- Less than two minutes into a game against its biggest rival, first-year Cedar Hill basketball coach Tim Thomas faced a difficult decision:
Allow Thomas Gipson, Cedar Hill’s best player, to stay on the floor against Duncanville after two quick fouls, or go by the book and bring him to the bench.
Gipson, a Kansas State signee, stayed on the floor. It proved to be a good move.
Cedar Hill, No. 5 in ESPNDallas.com Class 5A Top 10, led for all but 50 seconds and delighted a packed Longhorn Gym with a 54-44 victory Friday night.
“Thomas is a smart player with a lot of experience,’’ the coach explained afterward. “He just needed to play smart. Several times this year he’s played with three and four fouls.’’
Cedar Hill (23-2, 7-0 in District 5-5A) retained a one-game lead on South Grand Prairie and opened a two-game advantage on No. 7 Duncanville (18-6, 5-2) at the halfway mark in league play.
Gipson finished with eight points, six rebounds and four fouls. His 235-pound presence inside helped Cedar Hill outrebound the Panthers, 29-19.
“I love the atmosphere we had tonight,’’ Gipson said. “I really wanted to win this one because of what happened last year.’’
In last year’s home game against Duncanville, Gipson was fouled as he sank the tying basket at the buzzer and had a chance to win the game with a free throw. But he missed, and Duncanville eventually won in overtime.
“I thought about it,’’ Gipson said.
The rivals played at a frantic tempo and combined for almost as many turnovers (37) as field goals (38.)
“Sometimes it works that way,’’ Thomas coach. “Everybody expects a high-scoring game and it turns into a defensive battle. The difference was we got some easy baskets off our defensive plays.’’
Luke Mergerson, Duncanville’s 6-foot-8 post, kept his team within six points at halftime with a big second period of eight points and five rebounds. He finished with 12 points and a game-high nine boards.
“It seemed like we settled for jump shots in the second half," Mergerson said. "But it happens that way sometimes. Cedar Hill’s defense was pretty good. They rotated three guys on me. Thomas Gipson, I've been playing against him since the seventh grade.’’
Working in Duncanville's favor in the second half of district play are home games against South Grand Prairie and Cedar Hill.
Girls: Duncanville 49, Cedar Hill 47
The Pantherettes, No. 4 in ESPNDallas.com Class 5A Top 10, squandered a lead but managed to hold off unranked Lady Horns in the opening game Friday.
Guard Empress Davenport scored 21 points to lead Duncanville (23-6, 9-0 District 5-5A).
Cedar Hill (17-10, 6-3) trailed by 11 starting the fourth quarter. A three-point play by leading scorer Alecia Smith (12 points) with 1:39 remaining brought the Longhorns within one.
Kileah Mays, a 6-foot-2 senior, came up with big block to preserve Duncanville's lead in the final minute.