The players have bought in, the coach is quickly making his mark and the Palmer Bulldogs basketball team is ready for its first playoff appearance since 2005.

In his third year at Palmer High School, first year as head basketball coach, James Roby has the Bulldogs believing in themselves and the results are showing on the court.

Palmer enters tonight’s season finale with a 25-4 overall record, a 9-2 mark in District 13-2A and will enter the playoffs next week for the first time in six years.

“When I got the job last spring we got the kids together and planned a big summer of basketball for them. We wanted them to develop some team chemistry as well as confidence and the belief that they could be successful,” Roby said. “They ended up playing around 30 games in the summer and really began to play well. They committed to coming to the weight room for workouts and open gyms for most of the summer. I believe this hard work has really paid off for us.”

Palmer should finish the season 26-4 as it plays Life Oak Cliff tonight. The Bulldogs defeated the Lions 58-36 in the first district meeting between the teams.

While the first round playoffs opponent is still undetermined, Roby said he thinks they will play against Corsicana Mildred on Monday, Feb. 21. Palmer has defeated Mildred twice this season.

After starting the season 4-0 the Bulldogs lost by one to Kerens before rolling off eight consecutive wins including winning the Venus tournament championship.

Once in district play, Palmer lost two close games to Sunnyvale to end the regular season in second place.

“When the season started we implemented a 3/2 high low motion that I believe takes advantage of our players’ strengths on the court. We have a great balance of strong post players and guards that are fundamentally sound,” Roby said. “The boys also bought into the idea that our success would come from playing hard-nosed team man to man defense. The boys have done a great job of holding teams to point totals that give us an opportunity to win.  The kids began to gel early in the season and as their success grew so did their confidence. We have a great bunch of kids and coaching them has been a blast. They have made my job easy.”

Three seniors and two sophomores make up the starting five for Palmer.

“Cord Langthorn is undersized and only 5-foot-6 but he plays so much bigger,” Roby said. “He is the heart and soul of our team. He executes our offense exceptionally, handles pressure with a lot of poise and has been a major key to our success. As our point guard he averages over seven assists per game.”

What Langthorn lacks in size the Bulldogs make up for it with 6-foot-4 senior post Zach Hobbs.

Hobbs leads the Bulldogs in points per game and rebounds as the senior averages 14 points a game while pulling down seven boards.

“He is a force in the paint and much of our offense flows through him,” Roby said. “He is also a very unselfish player so when teams collapse on him he is very good about passing back out to guards for open shots.”

The final senior in the starting five is Christian Ramirez.

“Christian rounds out our starting five and is the smartest player on the floor. He is hard working and is always in the right place. He plays intense defense, always boxing out and rebounding,” Roby said.

The success of the team has come at a perfect time as the seniors have stuck with the program despite its lack of postseason success.

Getting a taste of success early in their career are sophomore guards Jose Zamarron and Tyler Lowe.

“Jose is legally deaf but you would never know it. He has been a huge spark for us this year. Jose has an exceptional sense for the game and is a lights out shooter. He has made 33 three pointers in the first 11 games of the season. He had one game with seven threes,” Roby said.

Lowe displayed his court skills last season as a freshman and has continued to improve this season.

“Tyler is extremely passionate about the game and is always up at the gym working. He has turned out to be our go-to defender and has done a great job of stopping top scorers from other teams,” Roby said.

While the starting five has been the leaders of the team most of the season the success could not have come without the play of the guys off the bench.

Jessie Swindell, Turner Harper, Augie Herrera and Jesse Gomez provide a nice form of relief for the Bulldogs and when the four are on the court there is not a letdown.