It has been 10 years since the Callisburg Wildcats have made the playoffs, but the success they have had in the first half of the season has them encouraged to end that drought.

The Wildcats are 17-4 this season and coming off a 75-69 overtime loss to Gunter on Friday, Jan. 3, to begin district play.

Callisburg head coach Kyle Jessie said Gunter landed the final punch in what was a competitive basketball game.

“Thursday night we had an overtime game against Ardmore and we were prepared for Friday’s game,” Jessie said. “We understood how big every possession is in a game of that magnitude. They just made some plays at the end and we didn’t. Momentum in overtime, they just got up by two and they hit a 3 and in that type of game, a five-point lead is pretty big and they hit free throws down the stretch, which was big.”

Jessie said he knew it would be a battle with Gunter headed into the game.

“I thought highly of Gunter coming in and they were 18-2,” Jessie said. “We knew it was going to be a tough matchup and we feel confident in where we are headed. In district, if we can play our brand of basketball, we’ll be fine. We didn’t win on the scoreboard, but I feel very confident in what we can achieve.”

As for why Jessie and the Wildcats are primed to make a run for the playoffs, he said the team’s maturity has paid off this season.

“We just have a bunch of veteran guys and we have a bunch of juniors and seniors,” Jessie said. “They’ve been through a lot together. We’re a hard-nosed team and we try to get after it defensively. That leads to our offense and that helps us dictate the tempo of the game. We want to push in transition when we get a stop. Offensively, we will shoot a lot of 3s and if we can exploit a matchup inside, we will, but we want to attack the rim and kick and and shoot 3s.”

The Wildcats have relied on their defense to jumpstart their offense and it’s not too complicated, according to Jessie.

“We’re going to have the most success if we play good defense,” Jessie said. “We’ll play half-court man and make it difficult to score on us. We’re pretty long and lanky and we’ll sit into a zone if we have to change the pace.”

District foes Whitesboro, Ponder and Gunter all pose formidable tests to Wildcats’ playoff chances, but Jessie said it’s a matter of belief.

“It all goes back to our spring and summer leagues,” Jessie said. “I’ve told them that we’re a playoff-capable team. This team has all the tools to make a playoff run. If you keep putting that in their ear and reminding them, they’re going to gain that belief. That’s been our whole motto this year and we fully believe we are going to be one of those four teams.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip

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