Seeking their first postseason appearance since 2012, the Brownwood Lions opened the 5-4A schedule Tuesday night at Warren Gym by earning just their second district victory in the past four seasons.
The Lions squandered an 11-point third-quarter lead, as well as a five-point advantage late in the fourth period, but were still able to prevail with a crucial 55-53 victory over the Big Spring Steers.
“Big Spring was coming off a big win against Sweetwater, which is a tough team, and we started with the district bye,” said Lions first-year head coach Nadir Dalleh. “It was one of those things where it was a little scary because they had some momentum coming in, but a district win is a district win. It doesn’t matter how you do it or what the score is.”
Knotted at 53 in the closing moments and with Big Spring in possession of the ball, Brownwood’s Blaine Hughes was able to swipe a steal with 12 seconds left, then penetrate into the lane where a foul was whistled against the Steers with two seconds on the clock.
Hughes, who along with Corleone Pressley finished with a game-high 16 points, calmly sank both free throws to give Brownwood (14-9, 1-0) — which drilled 16 of 20 free throws unofficially — the lead.
“Blaine is sneaky as can be,” Dalleh said. “He may not be the quickest guy on the floor but he finds the ball or it finds him. He just has a nose for the ball and it’s great to have him, and have him healthy.”
Big Spring (3-19, 0-1) inbounded the ball but an errant pass over midcourt sailed out of bounds, and the Steers never had a chance to answer.
Along the efforts of Hughes and Pressley, the Lions received eight points from Blake Bronniman, six from A.J. McCarty, five from Sean Yoder and two points apiece from Xavier Porter and Tristin Revada.
Prior to Hughes’ free throws, Bronniman’s three-pointer with just over a half-minute left was off the mark, which appeared at the time as if it would allow the Steers to take the final shot in the contest.
“We have to understand situations,” Dalleh said. “I got on to Blake pretty good but I apologized after the game. He had a wide open shot, a good looking shot, but that late in the game it’s take the best shot we can get and that’s a layup or something at the rim. Taking that earlier in the game is perfect, we just have to understand situations.”
Trailing 8-6 after one quarter and 24-22 at halftime, the Lions reeled off 12 consecutive points during the third period to eventually open a 42-31 lead at the 1:28 mark. A three-pointer by Bronniman ignited the rally and tied the game at 27. Hughes added five points, including a trey, while Pressley and Yoder added two points apiece.
Big Spring, however, scored seven points in the final 30 seconds of third period to close the gap to 42-38 heading into the fourth, where the score was tied on three occasions before the Steers took a 53-52 lead with 90 seconds left.
Yoder’s free throw at 1:19 knotted the score at 53.
“We’ve done that all year, get big leads and then we get relaxed,” Dalleh said. “We’re still learning how to win and we may give up some leads, but we’re still finding a way to win and that’s what important.”
Next for the Lions is an 8 p.m. Friday tilt at Snyder.