Dallas A. Maceo Smith High School’s first state basketball final four appearance will also be its last.
Days are numbered for the 33-year-old South Dallas school, at least in its present form as a comprehensive high school.
Because the school of 850 students is in its fourth year of academic unacceptability, the Dallas ISD has opted to convert the school building at 3030 Stag Road into a technology high school as part of a repurposing plan. Athletics will not be offered.
Many of the school’s current underclassmen will be housed at Wilmer-Hutchins High School, which the DISD plans to reopen in the fall. Others could wind up at Roosevelt or South Oak Cliff.
Rather than watch the school’s athletic program end with a whimper, the basketball team is finishing with a flourish.
The Falcons (26-9) will face Corpus Christi West Oso (33-3) in a Class 3A state semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center in Austin. A victory would vault A. Maceo Smith into the state title game at 10 a.m. Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s Burkburnett-Mexia semifinal.
“From the start of this school year,’’ school principal Marlon Brooks said, “we’ve talked to the kids about making this the most significant year in the history of the school. It started with our football team making the playoffs.
“And now the success of the basketball team has been amazing. They’ve lifted all of us on their backs.’’
Micah Cooper, a 6-2 junior guard who leads the team with a 13.5 scoring average, said morale has been boosted by the support of the students and teachers.
“Everybody is backing us 100 percent,’’ he said. “We’ve already made school history just getting to Austin.’’
Falcons coach John Burley hesitates to point to impending changes at the school as a reason for the success.
“It is unbelievable that we’d get to Austin in the final year of the school, but I honestly don’t know how much next year‘s change has to do with it,’’ said Burley, who is scheduled to move on to Wilmer-Hutchins next season “Half are seniors and wouldn’t be coming back anyway. All of them are focused and into the season. But you never know what makes them happy or sad.’’
Based on last season’s 7-22 record, it would have been difficult to foresee the Falcons packing for Austin this week.
Burley’s first season as a head coach at the school a year ago was an eye opener. He found himself in charge of a few players reluctant to accept discipline. He weeded out those who didn’t want to practice and turned those remained into a success story.
The turning point this season came in the next to last game of the regular season against rival Dallas Madison, which owned a long district winning streak.
A state tournament qualifier each of the preceding two seasons, Madison beat the Falcons by 16 points in an earlier district meeting and had them down by 12 points in the third quarter when Burley in a time out delivered an edict: No more jump shots.
“We started taking the ball to the rim and we won that night,’’ Burley said. “We haven’t lost since.’’
Its playoff run includes another win over Madison in the third round of the playoffs and a 63-60 overtime triumph over Argyle, a team that thumped A. Maceo Smith during the regular season, in the Region II championship game.
Guards Jeremy Mobley, a 5-11 senior, and Devonse Reed, a 6-4 junior, have been important contributors with scoring averages of 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“Our kids have remained very humble through this,’’ principal Brooks said. “No matter how we do at state, we are extremely proud to go this far.’’
If A. Maceo Smith should win the title, will the trophy remain at the school or be a part of next year’s move to Wilmer-Hutchins?
That’s a dilemma the Falcons wouldn’t mind facing.