MANSFIELD – For a team that started the season seeking chemistry, the North Central Texas Academy Pioneers finished with an explosion.
The Pioneers, who dropped their first two games this season, completed a state championship drive Saturday with a 56-48 win over San Antonio Castle Hills First Baptist School at Mansfield Legacy High School in the Class A boys final of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.
That triumph, along with the Pioneers’ 53-37 win over Lubbock Kingdom Prep Academy Friday in the semifinals at Mansfield High School, gave the Pioneers their 22nd straight victory to close the season.
NCTA boys coach Kirby Rasco said it took “lots of hard work” by the players to come together and have chemistry.
“It’s incredible,” Rasco said of the win, which gave the school dual basketball titles along with coach Jodie Stevens’ Lady Pioneers.
“We had some of the best kids to work with, and they worked hard. Most of them live together, and have to get along.”
Stefan Rosic, a 6-8 senior post in his first year playing for the Pioneers, scored 24 points in the semifinals and added 27 in the final.
“I don’t really like to lose, so I gave it my all,” Rosic said. “I was really pumped up to give the school the first (boys) state championship. I’m pretty excited and I can’t believe what we accomplished. To me, this was incredible.”
Rosic, along with teammates Marvin Ivanovic and Raphael Rohlfs, made the boys all-tournament team.
Castle Hills won the TAPPS Class A state football championship, and some of the same athletes were in basketball.
“We had to step it up – today especially,” Rasco said of the win over Castle Hills. “They had some athletes and they got after it.”
Rasco said the Pioneers got away from their game plan in the final quarter, allowing Castle Hills (20-4) to grab the lead, 48-47, with 2:29 left. But the defense got back in gear for a 9-0 closing run by the Pioneers.
“Our driving force is defense,” Rasco said. “They get after it when they have to. And we hit shots today we didn’t yesterday.”
Castle Hills guard Josh Chinin scored seven of his team’s nine points as the Eagles took the lead, but he fouled out after.
“(Chinin) fouling out was huge for us,” Rasco said.
In their semifinal, the NCTA grabbed the lead for good at the 7:54 mark in the third quarter on a field goal by Rosic. The Pioneers closed with a 13-6 spurt, accentuated by a dunk by Rosic.
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TAPPS Class A State Tournament
Kingdom Prep 13 9 7 8 – 37
NCTA 9 12 14 18 – 53
NCTA (21-2) scorring – Stefan Rosic 24, Marvin Ivanovic 15, Luis Rivas 9, Raphael Rohlfs 4.
NCTA Free throws – 6-10.
NCTA 3-pointers – Rosic 1, Ivanovic 2, Rohlfs 6.
NCTA 18 11 11 16 – 56
Castle Hills 11 15 11 11 – 48
NCTA (22-2) scoring – Stefan Rosic 27, Raphaeo Rohlfs 9, Luis Rivas 9, Marvin Ovanovic 5, Cale Dodson 3, Elias Demissie 3.
NCTA Free throws – 13-24.
NCTA 3-pointers – Rohlfs 3.
NCTA rebounds leader – Rosic 12.
NCTA assists leader – Rohlfs 5.
NCTA steals leader – Rivas 5.