Brownwood head coach Shane Perkins cautioned that the Lions’ record in the Underwood’s Christmas Classic might not reflect the improvements they made.
Despite finishing without a win on Saturday’s final day of action, Perkins feels the Lions still achieved their ultimate goal of getting better prior to the Jan. 11 District 16-4A opener.
Brownwood posted a 1-3 record during the Classic, but two of those losses occurred in overtime.
“We said when this is all over with we wanted to be a better basketball team, and I think we’re a better basketball team now than we were two days ago,” Perkins said. “You get better by playing good people.
“It’s kind of like LSU getting in the national championship game. They have two losses but nobody beat them in four quarters. In two of our losses nobody beat us in four quarters. We had chances in both and we made some plays in both games. That gives us confidence to know we can make some plays in tough situations.”
Saturday’s acton began with the the Lions (14-6) dropping their second overtime decision in as many days on their own home floor, 61-57, to Leander.
A fatigued Brownwood squad then struggled offensively in the nightcap, a 48-30 loss to Division I champion Wichita Falls, which won all four of its round-robin games.
“The Leander coach said it best before their game tonight. The way they played against us earlier, he thought they might come out and lay an egg,” said Perkins, in reference to Leander’s 64-34 loss to Killeen Shoemaker after picking up an overtime win over the Lions. “If you watched that game you know they’re not 30 points worse than Shoemaker.”
Brownwood never could find its touch offensively in the tournament finale against Wichita Falls. The Lions scored double figures in just one quarter, that being the third where they tallied 10.
Only five Lions scored, led by Parker Taylor’s 11 points. Rashad Deal added nine points, Mike Thompson finished with five, four came from Kevin Cunningham and Graylon Brown hit a late free throw.
Wichita Falls received 12 points from Brandon Billing, seven from Marion Bowen and six each from Isiah Anderson, Marshall Morris and Armonty Bryant.
Brownwood trailed 10-6 after one quarter, but held Wichita Falls to four points in the second quarter as the Lions owned a 15-14 halftime edge.
The Lions trailed by just three, 28-25, following a Thompson three-pointer with 58 seconds left in the third period. But Wichita Falls reeled off 15 consecutive points to build a 43-25 advantage, and Brownwood did not score for the first 4:52 of the final period.
“It was an ugly, hard-fought, physical first half,” Perkins said. “That deflated us a little, then we got frustrated with their trap. We were tired mentally and physically, and then when you get frustrated, this is what can happen. You make mistakes over and over again.”
In the earlier loss to Leander, Deal poured in a game-high 27 points for Brownwood, while Thompson contributed 12 points, including the tying three-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation.
Leander’s Joel Smith was fouled with two seconds left as he crossed the midcourt stripe, but Leander was also charged with a technical foul after the play.
Smith hit two free throws to make the score 52-50, then Deal answered with the technical free throws for Lions. Prior to Deal’s two free throws, the Lions were just 1-of-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and finished 5-of-14 at the line during the final quarter and overtime.
The Lions missed 4-of-6 free throws to open the extra session which allowed Leander to pull in front, 59-54. With 12 seconds left, Deal converted the Lions’ only field goal in overtime, a three-pointer that trimmed the gap to 59-57.
Bryce Elarms, who tallied 10 points, nailed two free throws for Leander with seven seconds remaining to ice the victory. Abrean Jones’ 13 points led Leander, while Mark Nwakamma racked up a dozen points.
Brownwood gave up seven of the game’s first eight points, but behind another stellar defensive effort, the Lions hung around and eventually grabbed the lead.
Deal’s bucket with three seconds left in the third quarter gave Brownwood’s its first lead, 37-36. The advantage grew to 40-36 with 6:13 left in regulation following a Cunningham bucket and another free throw from Deal.
But Leander again caught fire and posted a quick nine-point run, which put the Lions in a 45-40 hole with 3:56 left. Thompson nailed a bucket and Taylor scored on a put back as the Lions closed to within 45-44 with 2:12 left.
Trailing 48-44 with 25 seconds left, the Lions received a three-pointer from Thompson, which made the score 48-47. Tucker Hancock hit a pair of free throws for Leander with 17 seconds left, then Thompson drained the tying three.
Brownwood will be back in action Thursday when it hosts Abilene Wylie at 8 p.m. in a non-district contest. Glen Rose then visits at 6:30 p.m. Friday.