CLYDE — Coming off a hot win against rival Stephenville last weekend, the Brownwood Lions traveled Tuesday to meet another rival in the Graham Steers for the bi-district round of the Class 4A Region I playoffs.
Unlike the game against the Yellow Jackets, however, the Lions didn’t come out victorious.
After a hard fought battle that saw both teams go back and forth throughout the course of the game, Brownwood fell to Graham 62-49 at Bulldog Gymnasium.
While Brownwood (18-14) won the jumpball to start the game, the Lions didn’t get on the board until two and a half minutes into the game. Graham (18-8) opened up hot and didn’t stop, capitalizing on mistakes from the Lions to score six unanswered point to open the matchup.
It wasn’t until there was just over six minutes left in the first quarter that the Lions scored by way of junior Sean Yoder’s trip to the free throw line, hitting his first, but missing the second.
Heavy defensive pressure from the Steers forced the Lions to have bad looks and bad shots and Graham went on another run, putting up six unanswered points yet again, making the score 12-1.
Senior McLane Moore hit a bucket for the Lions afterward, but Graham answered right back less than 20 seconds later hitting a two-pointer of its own. Fortunately for the Lions, Yoder made his next shot plus drew the foul and successfully made it to bring the Lions within seven points. Following the same pattern, Graham needed only seconds after Yoder’s shot to add another two, followed by senior Corleone Pressley putting up two of his own just seconds after that.
From there the tables were turned and Brownwood began building momentum in a hurry.
Yoder made another two, followed by Pressley again with just over a minute left in the quarter. The Lions concluded their eight-point run with junior Xavier Porter adding a bucket with 35 seconds left.
Graham went the last three minutes of the first without scoring, until just five seconds were left, bringing the score to 18-14 in the Steers’ favor.
Brownwood missed its first six shots in the first quarter, but followed by making the next eight in a row and the Lions carried that trend into the second.
Junior Blaize Infinger drew a foul just 30 seconds into the second quarter and sunk both free throws, making it 18-16.
It was then back and forth again, with Graham scoring two, followed by Brownwood doing the same and then Graham draining a three pointer, pulling them ahead 23-18.
From there until halftime it was the Brownwood Lion show.
Blaine Hughes hit an easy layup, putting the Lions down by just one point. The senior immediately followed that up with a three, giving his team its first lead of the entire night. Pressley added four shortly after, with Graham hitting one more three pointer during that time.
At halftime the score was 29-26 in Brownwood’s favor.
The Lions struck first hitting a two pointer, before Graham fired back with yet another three. Brownwood’s Moore did the same, giving the Lions a 34-32 lead, before a foul sent Yoder back to the free throw line where he made one. The Steers made their next shot, putting them down by one point with four minutes remaining in the quarter.
Brownwood’s Pressley then hit a wide open shot, making the score 37-34. Unfortunately for the Lions, it would be their last lead of the night.
Graham went on an absolute reign of terror, swishing three, three-point shots in a matter of 51 seconds, giving the Steers a 43-37 lead.
The Lions called a timeout, hoping it would halt Graham’s momentum, but it did anything but that, as the Steers hit their next two shots, adding four points. Three minutes had passed without the Lions having any points to show for it. Missed shot after missed shot had hurt the team and the only point came from junior Blake Bronniman’s free throw due to a foul.
The Steers led the Lions by double digits at the end of the third quarter, as Graham was up 49-38.
The fourth quarter continued to see Brownwood’s scoring drought and finally, after three minutes had passed, Pressley hit a two-pointer, trimming the double digit lead down to just nine points. The Lions took another minute to score, this time thanks to Yoder, but Graham continued to answer back each time the Lions got something going.
Freshman A.J. McCarty gave the Lions a glimmer of hope with just three minutes left in the ballgame, hitting a long three point jumper. Things began to really look bright just seconds later, when Hughes added a three of his own to bring the Lions within six, 54-48, with 2:45 remaining.
Graham dashed all hopes of a comeback, however, sinking a three pointer with 1:40 left in the ballgame, going up 57-48.
From there all the Steers had to do was run out the clock and they did just that. The Lions fouled as much as possible, which ended up with Graham scoring five more points and Brownwood not adding any.
It was a good effort, but just not enough to mount a comeback.
“We played a heck of a first half,” said Brownwood head coach Nadir Dalleh. “As bad as we started, we came back and did a great job in that first half. That was huge and it gave our kids a lot of confidence. It just wasn’t in the cards the second half though. We got a little sloppy and impatient on some things and just couldn’t overcome that. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids though. They did a great job all season. No one even expected us to make it as far as we did.”
The District 5-4A runner-up Lions were making their first postseason appearance since the 2011-12 season.