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Braves building to the next level

In the end, Shawnee just couldn’t keep up with Dunbar’s ambition. But the Braves are making headway.

“We missed a few shots here and there and they got to running,” reflected Shawnee super senior Jaelin Williams following a 67-54 setback to the Wolverines in Friday’s third of three boys high school basketball Division II district finals at UD Arena.

“That’s what they do best and we couldn’t keep up.”

Most teams can’t. That’s at least part of the reason Dunbar has won three state titles since 2006 and is the defending D-II state champs. Guess what the Wolverines’ ultimate goal is again?

Shawnee is yet to make a final four in program history. But that’s the lofty heights that coach Chris McGuire envisions for the Braves. To do that, they’ll first have to become district final regulars. With three trips that deep into the postseason in the last five years, they’re on their way.

“We talked to the kids about that,” said McGuire, Shawnee’s head coach for eight seasons. “Hopefully, Shawnee can remain here at the district level for years to come.

“We’ve got some good young kids who I think are hungry and feel this a little bit and who want to get one of these (district titles).”

There is much to be encouraged about concerning Braves hoop. Shawnee (23-3) set a school record for most wins, eclipsing the previous high of 20 set in 1975.

Shawnee also started two sophomores against Dunbar, guards Andrew Tincher (10 points) and Jaden Greenwood. The top subs were junior Jalen Nelson and 6-foot-3 freshman David Barnett. Those four should form the starting nucleus for the 2013-14 season.

But the jewel of Shawnee’s outstanding two-season run was Williams. He hasn’t yet verbally committed or signed to play college ball, but that seems inevitable.

At 6-5, he’s slight, but a great leaper and strong finisher. He hit eight of 11 shots against Dunbar, scored a game-high 25 points and collected nine rebounds and four assists. He was the one player that the Wolverines couldn’t shut down or run away from.

“Everyone in the stands should have been impressed with that, knowing that he’s one of the better kids in the area,” said McGuire.

It’s anyone’s guess if any of the returning Braves can come close to Williams’ impact in the next couple of seasons. But that’s the goal.

“It was exciting and fun, but we sure would have liked to get the win,” said Williams.

It’s up to the returning Braves to extend their recent success to that next level.

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