Denver City next for Brownwood at 5:50 p.m. Friday at Coliseum with championship game berth at stake

The Brownwood Lions stretched their win streak to six games during Thursday’s opening day of the TexasBank Holiday Classic, rolling past the Bangs Dragons, 72-37, in the morning and knocking off the Llano Yellowjackets, 45-36, in the final game of the day at the Brownwood Coliseum.

With the victories, the Lions remain in the winners bracket where they will challenge Denver City at 5:50 p.m. Friday at the Coliseum with a trip to Saturday night’s championship game at stake.

In the opening victory over Bangs, the Lions (13-4) led by 10 points at halftime, 32-22, then seized control of the contest by outscoring the Dragons (2-10) by a 24-9 count in the third period to carry a 56-29 advantage into the final eight-minute frame.

“We went into halftime and I told them we needed to come out and send a message that we’re not going to be tired,” said Lions second-year head coach Nadir Dalleh. “I have enough kids to sub in if we’re tired, and that lit a fire under them a little bit because they knew I was going to take them out if they didn’t hustle. But they came out and executed, we ran the ball down the floor really well like we wanted to do. Considering this floor is a little longer, we held up a little better than I thought.”

In the third period, Brownwood opened with a 17-3 spurt to extend its lead to 49-25 at the 4:13 mark of the quarter. Buckets by Zach Strong and A.J. McCarty started the quarter for the Lions then, after a Dagan Baker bucket for Bangs, the Lions scored the next 13 points. Strong and McCarty again started the surge followed by a traditional three-point play from Sean Yoder, Strong scoring following an offensive rebound and a three-pointer by Xavier Porter. Leading by 24 points, the Lions pushed the lead to 27 by the end of the period.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions maintained their 2-to-1 scoring edge over the Dragons for the majority of the frame.

Every Lion saw playing time as Strong scored a team-high 14 points for Brownwood trailed by McCarty with 13, Gavon Clemons with eight, Blake Bronniman with seven, Yoder with six, Porter and Isyah Campos with five, Tommy Bowden with four, Kirk Vickers and Riker with three apiece, Jaten Reeves with two points and Blaize Infinger with one.

“It’s always good to get everybody playing time and experience and it’s hard when you have 14 kids to get them enough time to really contribute to the team,” Dalleh said. “They know when they’re on the floor they need to make the most of every opportunity they can, and they did. We’re starting to come together and we have to understand that it happens on the defensive end.”

For Bangs, Colton Brewer led the charge with a game-high 15 points trailed by 10 from Justin Wilson, seven from George Nicholas, three from Baker and two from Tyler Williford.

The Lions tallied 20 of the game’s first 25 points and led 20-8 after one quarter. The Dragons, however, rallied in the second period and closed the gap to four points, 23-19, at the 3:10 mark.

Trailing 22-10, Wilson drained a trey for Bangs that reduced the deficit to single digits, then Nicholas sank a three-pointer that trimmed Brownwood’s lead to 22-16. Following a free throw by Yoder, Brewer knocked down a trey to reduce the Lions’ advantage to four points. Brownwood responded with a 9-3 run to end the quarter, however, and re-established a double-digit lead.

“We came out pretty well considering we haven’t done anything for a little while, since last Thursday really,” Dalleh said. “We had a little letdown at the start of the second quarter, we got real lazy on defense. We were expecting them to miss a shot instead of forcing them to do something different than what they normally do and they caught up with us and made a game of it. They can shoot the ball if you let them, and we tend to let other teams shoot the ball a little bit. That’s something we have to get fixed.”

In Thursday’s finale against Llano, the Lions got scoring from throughout their lineup and a solid defensive effort.

McCarty led the Lions with 10 points, six in the first quarter, while Yoder and Porter managed eight apiece. All eight of Yoder’s points came in the second half.

The Lions jumped out to a 13-9 lead in the first quarter, paced by McCarty who earned the Lions six points on two triples. Llano also featured strong and frequent shooting from outside the arc, nailing two threes of its own in the first frame and attempting several more.

Brownwood used the second quarter to extend its lead, aided by a 10 to four disparity in fouls between the teams that sent the Lions to the charity stripe time and again. Llano hit a few big shots late in the quarter to keep its deficit in the single digits, but the Lions got solid contributions from their bench to keep Llano at arm’s length.

McCarty tacked on two points to lead the Lions with eight at halftime, while Porter managed six and Blake Bronniman had five as the teams went to the locker room.

The third period saw both teams’ defenses stiffen, with neither squad allowing more than 10 points and Brownwood holding Llano to just six before a final-minute field goal in the quarter. Neither team managed a three-pointer in the period, but Yoder led the Lions with four points and McCarty added another basket.

Trailing by 11, the Jackets needed a big fourth quarter to pressure the Brownwood lead. But inconsistent shooting from the foul line and the field continued to plague Llano, while Brownwood was in no hurry to lose possession on the other end. With 5:36 left in the quarter, Llano had tacked on just one point to its tally while the Lions had pulled farther away at 41-27.

In addition to its scoring leaders, Brownwood received a solid performance from Clemons, who dominated the low post for six points, and Strong who also managed six. Bronniman scored five points and Jared Cullins scored two to round out the Brownwood totals.

The Lions defense held Llano to 10 points or fewer in all four quarters.