Illini Recruit Bryce Dixon & The Colony Move On to the Regional Finals

Mike Cagley, Co-Host of IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular & Big Sports Radio

March 2, 2024

DaKari Spear about to make the score 58-55 courtesy of The Colony Basketball X page.

Illini recruit Bryce Dixon (a 6'5" 4-star player) and The Colony Cougars advanced to the Regional Finals today at noon today against the Lancaster Tigers (27-5).  The game is broadcast on the NFHS Network. The Cougars (31-5) defeated the Longview Lobos (32-5) 60-58 on Friday night. DaKari Spear (a 6'4" 4-star recruit, with offers from SMU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) had 31 of the Colony's 60 points and Bryce Dixon had 14. Both Spear and Dixon are sophomores.

The Cougars started slowly down 17-4 early before switching to a zone defense and rapidly cooling off the hot shooting of the Lobos. By halftime, the Cougars had regained the lead at 32-31 with Spear having 17 and Dixon scoring 6 and playing defense either in the paint on the zone or against the Lobos 6'8" center, Robert Blandburg, who led the Lobos with 13 points.

In the second half, the game was close with neither team being able to get past a 7-point lead. Spear made two massive plays that led to the victory late in the game. With the Cougars down 54-50, Spear made a four-point-play with a successful three and a foul. The game was tied at 54 after the Colony had cooled off from the field. Then at 56-55, Spear accelerated past his defender and dunked over the defense for a 58-55 lead with 1:27 left. The Colony then hit 1 of 2 free throws twice to make the game a bit more dramatic than it needed to be before getting a key stop to with the game 60-58.

Dixon is the biggest player on the Cougars at 6'5" and he was forced into the post for most of the game against the Lobos. Despite having foul issues and missing some time in the 3rd and 4th quarters, he was able to grab rebounds, blocked a couple of shots on the in the paint and anchored the smaller Cougars on the inside against the Lobos.

Spear used his three-point shooting and ability to drive to control the game. The Lobos struggled to find an answer for him defensively. His assertive attitude on offense meant that when the Cougars need a shot, he's the man who takes it.

Down the stretch it seemed like Cougars head coach Cleve Ryan was one step ahead of his counterpart. Aside from staying calm during the early 17-4 onslaught that the Lobos unleashed on the Cougars and keeping his team level-headed and in the game, Ryan used his defensive advantages to chip away at the Lobo lead. On the other end of the court, the Cougars kept finding ways to get the ball to Spear and isolate him against defenders who struggled to slow him down.

Additionally, the Cougars were able to make baskets on three wide open baseline inbounds plays as well. The willingness of the team to run a play that takes four seconds and results in Dixon getting a slashing layup demonstrated the confidence in their play calling and the discipline to run a complex inbounds play well.

With the three best players on the Colony being sophomores and having a coach who has been on the bench since the Deron Williams era, the Colony is going to be a force in Texas basketball for the next few years.

 

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