Lightning struck twice for the Brownwood Lions.
A year ago at Snyder, the Lions rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Tigers, 39-36, in their second district outing en route to a runner-up 5-4A finish.
Fast forward to Friday night at Warren Gym where the Lions faced a 35-23 deficit with 4:23 to go, but finished on a 16-2 run to again snatch a 39-37 victory from the Tigers in District 5-4A action.
“It's almost like a mirror image of what happened last year when we went to their place and we waited until the fourth quarter to play,” said Lions second-year head coach Nadir Dalleh. “What an unbelievable finish by our kids. As bad as we played for three and a half quarters, those kids stepped up and played hard and that's what we're all about — stepping up when it's time.”
The Lions improved to 18-6 overall — matching last year's win total — but more importantly, moved to 2-0 in district play. Snyder slipped to 10-8 overall and 1-2 in league action.
Down 37-35 with half a minute left, Snyder threw the ball away due to the Lions' full court pressure defense, and Xavier Porter hit the tying shot with 19 seconds remaining. On Snyder's next possession, a similar situation occurred just past mid-court as Blake Bronniman came away with a loose ball, drove the length of the court and pulled up for a game-winning five-foot floater with three seconds left.
“He is getting better and better every game at understanding when to shoot,” Dalleh said of Bronniman, the Lions starting point guard. “I had to get on him a little to keep him under control. He was getting to the lane and releasing his shot out by the block, but once he figured that out he hit some shots, including the game-winner.”
Defensively, the Lions' switch to full-court pressure midway through the final period gave Snyder fits and changed the entire complexion of the contest.
“We were letting Snyder do what they do which is move the ball, take the time and minimize possessions,” Dalleh said. “We did a great job stepping up on defense, getting up in the passing lanes and that's when the game turned.”
Zach Strong led the Lions with 18 points, with half those coming in the fourth period. Trailing 35-24 with 3:06 left, Strong recorded a pair of traditional three-point plays to bring the Lions within five, 35-30, at the 2:16 mark.
Porter followed with a pair of free throws with 2:03 left – as the Lions were shooting the double bonus while being whistled for only four fouls the entire second half — to shave Snyder's lead to 35-32.
The Tigers ended a 4:11 scoring drought when Kalen Cowley extended Snyder's lead to 37-32 at the 1:18 mark.
Strong followed with a bucket six seconds later, then converted one of two free throws with 53 seconds left to reduce Snyder's edge to 37-35.
Brownwood — which jumped out to a 24-0 lead after one quarter in Tuesday's district-opening victory at Big Spring — trailed Snyder 14-5 after one quarter, 25-20 at halftime and 31-22 through three periods. It took the Lions 27 minutes and 37 seconds to match their first period total from the previous outing, but Brownwood also yielded just 12 points to the Tigers in the second half.
“As good as we played the other night, we couldn't play any worse for three and half quarters,” Dalleh said. “I was scared to death, but the kids stepped up. We went to that pressure defense and the kids just wanted to compete and wanted to win.”
Along with Strong's 18 points, Bronniman chipped in 12, A.J. McCarty finished with five and Porter added four.
For Snyder, Trey Samaniego led the Tigers with nine points, but left the game midway through the fourth period with concussion-like symptoms after colliding with Strong in the paint. Barron Wesley added eight points, Teafale Lenard chipped in seven and Cowley tallied six.
Next up, the Lions on Tuesday host defending district champion and eighth-ranked Abilene Wylie (22-3, 2-0), a 76-45 winner over Sweetwater (6-12, 1-2) Friday night.
“Wylie's as good as advertised from what we've seen on film,” Dalleh said. “We just need to give them a run for it and try to get better.”