ANSON — The Burkburnett Bulldogs’ full-court press and three-point shooting proved suffocating for the Brownwood Lions basketball squad on Tuesday evening, as the Lions were bounced from the playoffs with a 73-59 bi-district loss.
Sophomore Zach Strong enjoyed a massive night for the Lions (20-11), putting up 27 points despite not scoring in the first quarter. But the Lions started slowly and only managed eight points from their bench all game, while the Bulldogs enjoyed shooting from throughout their lineup. They were paced by KenDarious Horton’s 18 points.
Burkburnett started the game with a quick 7-0 run to gain a lead. Though the initial scoring deluge soon subsided, the Lions were squelched in their own end by an aggressive pressing Bulldogs defense and managed few shot attempts as they attempted to level the score.
Quick turnovers gave Burkburnett plenty of opportunities to extend its early lead. The Bulldogs’ press pressured the Lions into bad decisions in their backcourt, forcing turnovers and travels aplenty. The refs had a quick whistle for both teams, however, blowing dead several possessions for traveling and calling fouls at a fast clip. Brownwood didn’t break the ice until senior Sean Yoder picked up a shooting foul with 4:23 left in the first quarter and sank one of his two free throws.
Yoder also managed Brownwood’s first field goal of the game with 2:34 left in the first. The Lions trailed 21-5 after an abysmal opening quarter.
The Brownwood offense finally burst on the scene in the second quarter, paced by Strong who opened his tab with 12 points in the frame. After its initial five-point effort, Brownwood put up 24 in the second quarter and pulled to within single-digits for the first time since the game’s early minutes. The whistles continued to sound throughout the quarter—by the end of the second, there had been more than 35 free throws attempted between the two teams in the game. Strong’s 12 paced the Lions through 16 minutes, while Yoder managed seven points and McCarty had six. Jacob Williams and Jalen White both had eight first-half points for the Bulldogs.
In the third quarter, a hail of three-pointers began to undo the Lions yet again. Led by players like Williams, Horton and Gavin Morris, the Bulldogs caught fire from the outside and also stopped Brownwood’s offensive momentum to build a 50-36 lead with about 4 minutes left in the quarter. Brownwood called a timeout to talk over the problem and netted a quick two from Xavier Porter after the break.
But Morris drained yet another trey on Burkburnett’s next possession, and the shots continued to fall for the rest of the frame. The Bulldogs were up by 15 by the end of the quarter.
Burkburnett’s Tre’von Dean had the defensive highlight of the game when the tall, lanky forward got high to stuff a Lions shot in the low post with about a minute left in the third. Needing quick scores and consistent stops, Brownwood was unable to mount a serious threat to the Burkburnett lead in the fourth quarter and the game’s final minutes passed without suspense.
Lions head coach Nadir Dalleh said he was proud of the way his team responded to a dismal first quarter. “In that first quarter, I almost wanted to climb up in the bleachers and sit with everybody else,” he said. “That was about as bad as we could start. We gave them 10 points and missed eight free throws.
“To start the way we did and then come back, that’s just the way our kids are. They play hard. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”