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Mavericks are going to the NBA finals, jump on the bandwagon

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The Dallas Mavericks are going back to the NBA Finals for the first time in 13 years after dispatching the tortured Minnesota Timberwolves in game five on Thursday night on the road.
Dallas is playing the Boston Celtics, who had the best record in the league this year, in the finals with the first game scheduled for June 6.
It has been awhile since 2011. That year the Mavericks upset the hated Miami Heat and franchise stalwart Dirk Nowitzki completed the ultimate challenge of delivering a title to Dallas after trying and failing throughout the previous decade.
That accomplishment and his continued loyalty to the franchise for all 21 years of his career is why there is a bronze statue of him outside of the arena.
That peak was the beginning of a steady decline for the franchise for the next seven years as the Mavericks tried to contend even with father time taking its toll on Nowitzki in his 30s.
The team bottomed out in 2018, but thankfully that got them a low draft pick they used, with a trade involved, to nab the next big European import.
Slovenia’s Luka Doncic came into the league as the most accomplished European top draft prospect in history at the time. Most of the time, they are picked based on potential, but Doncic had already led his team to the championship and been named the league’s most valuable player all by the age of 18.
Despite not being able to fly high above the rim or explode past people with otherworldly athleticism, he has used unbelievable skill, his size, strength, IQ and competitive nature to become one of the best players in the league pretty much since his second year.
That convinced the franchise to build exclusively around him since when the ball is in his hands he can either make tough shots or find one of his teammate a usually wide open shot. He does things other players cannot do and makes it look easy while also being magical, hence his nickname “Luka Magic.”
Up until this season, the high point for the franchise was two years ago, when the team made an unexpected run to the conference finals before getting outclassed by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors, winning their fourth title in eight years.
That team lost a big piece as guard Jalen Brunson had become an unexpected sidekick to Luka. The team failed re-sign him and he went to the New York Knicks where he has been the best thing to happen to that franchise in decades.
We’ve learned through the years that having Doncic do everything is too taxing for him in the playoffs, so having another great ball handler who can do similar things was key.
Unfortunately, those players are hard to find. Midway through last season, the team took a big chance and traded for Kyrie Irving.
On the court it seemed like heaven. He had won a title playing second fiddle to Lebron James in Cleveland. He can handle the ball like the best street ball player you have ever seen while finishing wild layups against guys a foot taller than him with either hand all while being able to shoot and create for himself and others.
However, there was a reason he was available. Since he had left Lebron, he failed to lead a young Boston team as the No. 1 option and left after three seasons with hurt feelings between him, the franchise and the city.
He then teamed up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and that situation never seemed to go right due to injuries, chemistry and more recently, off the court situations.
Irving made choices that knowingly limited his availability during COVID-19 and then shared support for a documentary that shared anti-Semitism views among other conspiracy theories. He was coming to Dallas with that kind of baggage.
It did not turn the season around last year as the team was just barely contending for the playoffs.
The franchise made the unpopular move to start to tank, intentionally lose, the last few weeks of the season, giving up a potential playoff spot for a marginally higher draft pick.
Somehow the Mavericks were rewarded for that as we used it to draft Dereck Lively. He is a very athletic post player, whose skills include running, jumping, playing defense and catching lobs.
Somehow, Lively came into the league ready to play from day one and even earned the starting job early on, though injuries have sometimes limited his availability.
The team was playing better this year as Doncic and Irving got more reps playing off each other, but were still sniffing the outer edges of playoff contention.
At the trade deadline in February, the team made two trades, one for wing PJ Washington and the other for post player Daniel Gafford. Both became starters right away. Washington proved to the be tough defensive wing that can do other things the team needed.
Gafford took over the starting center position instead of Lively since he has proven to be a bit more durable and physical, though the two provide the team with a great two-person punch all game as they play similar minutes.
That combined with the unheralded Derrick Jones Jr. ascending to a starting spot thanks to his defense and improved shooting despite coming into this year known only for his prodiguious dunking exploits, and the team made a turn.
Since the trade, the team’s defense has been one of the league’s best and the team went 21-9 to end the season and earn a fifth seed.
The team battled through an old foe in the Los Angeles Clippers, a team Doncic had lost to in the first round on two previous occasions, and won in six games 4-2 as they played better as the series went on.
They then played the top seed in the conference, the young Oklahoma City Thunder. The experience of Dallas paid off against the OKC’s inexperience and the Mavericks also won in six games 4-2.
This set them up against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota had just knocked off the defending champs Denver Nuggets in seven games. All season the Timberwolves had the best defense in the league.
They were also led by a young, charismatic player in Anthony Edwards who despite being just 22, was the type of throwback explosive athlete of a scorer that people used to compare to Michael Jordan before that became both cliché and blasphemous.
Add to it the Timberwolves have been a tortured franchise it’s whole existence, making it this far in the playoffs only once 20 years ago, and people were ready to pick Minnesota.
Still, Dallas showed experience in the playoffs pays off against a team full of players going through a deep run for the first time.
The first three games went down to the wire and again and again Doncic and Irving led the Mavericks by making impossible to defend plays when it mattered most.
It was highlighted by Doncic making a go ahead 3-point shot while being guarded by the league’s defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert in game two with three seconds left.
Minnesota made an effort in game four to not get swept, but then Dallas came out to make it definitive in game five, leading by as many as 36 at one point and winning 124-103 to get the Mavericks back to the NBA finals.
Jump on this bandwagon if you are a Dallas sports fan. Games will be broadcast on ABC with a start time of either 7 or 7:30 p.m. starting June 6.

To read the full story, pick up a copy of the weekend edition of the Bowie News.

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Briles earns state honor

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Forestburg’s Brenna Briles won the 1A girl’s high jump at the state meet. (Photo by Cassie McFadden)

Forestburg’s Brenna Briles was named to the Texas High School Coach’s Association’s 1A Track and Field Super Elite Team. Briles won the 1A state title in the girl’s high jump in May. The THSCA Super Elite Teams consists of high school players nominated by current professional members of the Texas High School Coaches Association. The player must meet the THSCA award criteria to be nominated. The award recognizes student athletes across the state of Texas for their exemplary athletic achievement in their respective sport.

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Oil Bowl athletes compete well

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Nocona’s Skyler Smith drives into the lane as Prairie Valley’s Makaylee Gomez and Bowie’s Ziba Robbins converge on her in the Oil Bowl.

All 16 area athletes got the chance to play in the 87th Maskat Shrine Oil Bowl Classic on Friday and Saturday.
For the vast majority of the athletes it was not only the last time to represent their school weeks after graduation, it also was the last time many will play organized sports.
The basketball games started the weekend off Friday night. In the girl’s game, Nocona’s Skyler Smith and Bellevue’s Cirstin Allen played for the east team. The west team had Bowie’s Ziba Robbins and Prairie Valley’s Makaylee Gomez.
The west’s overall depth led to the team prevailing 73-56 as Robbins scored 13 points while Gomez scored five points. Smith finished with 14 points while Allen scored three points.
For Smith and Robbins, it was only the final high school game for each. Both are signed to play basketball in college, with Smith playing at East Texas Baptist University and Robbins at local Midwestern State University.
For Gomez and Allen, representing their schools one last time and proving they belong in a game with the area’s best players despite being from a 1A school was a good experience for both.
The boy’s game saw the two area’s players on the same east team. Nocona’s Javier Gaytan and Prairie Valley’s Tyson Easterling got some run in their final high school game.
The west won the high scoring shootout 91-70. Gaytan finished with 11 points while Easterling scored two points. Despite being on the losing end, both had fun one last time playing with the area’s best.
On Saturday, there were two volleyball games. The first game saw players from schools that were 2A and smaller play in a game while the second was for players from schools 3A and bigger. Nocona Coach Kara Lucherk coached east team in both games.
In the first game, Prairie Valley’s Kasi Phillips and Gold-Burg’s Jimena Garcia played for the west team. Bren Fenoglio from Nocona played for her old coach on the east team.
The west team easily won in straight sets as all three players expressed both sadness it was over and that they had fun.
The big school volleyball game was more of the same though it was the east team that won that game. Bowie’s Olivia Gill was sad in the outcome with her being on the west team, but was happy to put on her jersey one last time and get several chances to spike the ball over the net.
The football game saw six players from Bowie and Nocona suit up for the east team. While their team scored first, the west eventually came back to win 14-7, with an opposing player intercepting a pass in the end zone in the final minute to wrap the game up.
From Bowie, Troy Kesey was asked to block from his tight end position more than go out for passes and did his job. Seth Mann used his speed to provide continuous pursuit while playing defensive end.
From Nocona, Brady McCasland and Cooper Waldrip got to play new positions at cornerback for the first time. Charlie Fuller saw a few reps at wide receiver, but mostly played on defense at cornerback in small doses as well.
With all five athletes playing football for the final time, the novelty of playing in the game despite smaller roles than they were used to was fun for them.
Nocona’s Johnny Stone played only a couple of reps at his usual linebacker spot on defense, but he has more in his future. He is signed to play football at Nelson University this fall.

To see pictures of the athletes, pick up the mid-week edition of the Bowie News.

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Oil Bowl 2024 Interviews

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There were 16 athletes from our coverage area who competed in the 87th Annual Maskat Shrine Oil Bowl on June 14-15. The first video is an interview with the athletes who played in the girls basketball game (L-R) Skyler Smith, Ziba Robbins, Cirstin Allen and Makaylee Gomez. The second interview was the athletes who played in the boys basketball game (L-R) Tyson Easterling and Javier Gaytan. The third interview was athletes who played in the small school volleyball game (L-R) Jimena Garcia, Kasi Phillips and Bren Fenoglio. The fourth interview was the athlete who played in the big school volleyball game Olivia Gill. The fifth interview was with the athletes who played in the football game (L-R) Troy Kesey, Johnny Stone, Cooper Waldrip, Brady McCasland, Charlie Fuller and Seth Mann.
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