FEATURE: Runnin’ Dublin Lions throwing caution to the wind

DUBLIN — It is the goal of every basketball team to outscore the opposition. But in the case of the Dublin boys,  that goal has a more literal meaning.

Dublin, now in its fourth year under coach Will Parker, has not only evolved into one of the top Class 3A teams in the Big Country, but it’s also one of the highest-scoring small-school teams in the state of Texas.

A frenetic tempo, more common at 5A and 6A schools, is at the heart of it — with the Lions throwing caution to the wind and having fun doing it. 

“It’s pretty fun because we get up and down the floor and score quick,” said junior guard Angel Ramirez, who is second on the team in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game. “We force the other team to play defense quicker so we can put more pressure on them and score more points that way.”

Contrary to old-school thinking, it doesn’t matter which team is theoretically more talented in the Dublin doctrine.

Rather than concerning themselves with slowing a better team down, fourth-year coach Will Parker’s approach is to speed the opposition out of its comfort zone.

The system is considered risky at the small-school levels, where less depth and fewer quality ball handlers are generally available. Yet in Dublin’s case, it’s working.

The Lions carry a 14-5 overall record, a 4-0 district mark and a scoring average of 72.8 points per game into Friday’s District 6-3A matchup with Cisco (17-3, 4-0) — the third straight year DHS has averaged more than 70 points per game.

“I played at Southwest High School in Fort Worth (under) coach Scott Gray, and this is how we played,” Parker said. “I started asking a lot of questions and the philosophy behind it made a lot of sense.

“When you play up-tempo basketball, you get more possessions offensively and defensively, so you get better faster. When we’re getting twice as many possessions as other teams are getting in slow-it-down basketball, those are more reps and opportunities for us to work on things.

“Offensively, there’s more film for us to look at, break down and talk to guys about. So from a statistical standpoint, it makes it easier to coach basketball in my opinion.”

The idea didn’t catch on immediately.

Parker’s Lions struggled through a 7-19 campaign in his debut season in 2016-17. A year later, however, that record jumped to 25-9, followed by a 25-7 finish last year, with scoring averages of  77.5 and 79.2 points per game, respectively.

“One of the (worrisome) things for me was could we go to a small town like Dublin and play this up-tempo basketball?” Parker said. “In the city you see it all the time in Fort Worth and Dallas. 

“At those schools everybody plays that way. Out here, I was taking a gamble to try something new, but I believed in it.”

The premise is simple: Pressure the basketball, run whenever possible, shoot when open, be relentless and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t worry, be happy.

Of course, the approach does have a downside.

On occasion, when the Lions have a cold shooting night against a more talented opponent, they can suffer unusually large blowout losses. A 94-68 loss to Lipan this season could serve as an example, as could an 85-57 loss at Lampasas in 2017.

That, in Parker’s book, is an acceptable price to pay, as long as the Lions improve appreciably over the course of a season.

“There are those times when we get blown out, and playing this way leaves you kind of vulnerable to that,” Parker said. “But I think the reward is far greater. 

“When we played Brownwood this year and we won 61-60, we were in that game against a team you could argue is better than we are. But we were making them get up and down the court and we were wearing them down. A lot of the teams that play a puzzle piece, chess match kind of basketball, aren’t used to playing this style.

“We feel giving our guys something different and unique is a challenge for the other team.” 

It’s also popular among the Dublin players, four of whom are averaging double-digit scoring, topped by Blake Porter at 19.8 points per game.  Jacob Stanley and Jakob Seals toss in 12.4 and 11.8 points, respectively.

“It’s tough to go from a cookie-cutter offense to this fast-paced, out of control style of basketball,” Parker said. “The first year, we went 7-19 and it was really tough. But luckily I had a good group of sophomores who really bought in to it.

“It’s because these guys believe in what we’re doing.”

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