The Brownwood Lions will enter District 7-4A boys basketball action with seven consecutive victories to their credit after fending off the Hillsboro Eagles, 64-61, Tuesday night at Warren Gym.
The Lions (14-9) stretched their lead to 62-54 with 3:36 left following a three-pointer by John Wilhelm, who was then whistled for a technical foul for taunting after draining the trey.
Hillsboro (14-4) answered with the next seven points, reducing Brownwood’s lead to 62-61 with 44 seconds left. With 15 seconds to go, Wilhelm was fouled and knocked down one of two free throws, but the Eagles still had life, trailing 63-61. Hillsboro then coughed up the ball on its ensuing possession, which resulted in Zach Strong being fouled with two seconds to go, where he also sank one of two free throws. Hillsboro’s last gasp three-point attempt from beyond half court by Cameron Fitch was off the mark, and the Lions kept their win streak intact.
“That’s a very athletic team,” said Lions third-year head coach Nadir Dalleh. “We made a lot of stupid mistakes, missed a lot of shots that we should hit, wide open shots. We went backward on some things and that’s bothersome a little bit with district a week away. But a hard-fought win is still a win and we needed one of those.”
The Lions trailed 34-33 at halftime and were down 43-40 with 4:37 left in the third period, but A.J. McCarty triggered a run of eight straight Brownwood points, and the Lions closed out the quarter with 13 of the final 17 to carry a 53-47 lead into the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer by McCarty drew the Lions even at 43 at the 3:28 mark, then he converted a traditional three-point play to put Brownwood back up for good, 46-43. Theo Bryant chipped in a pair of free throws and McCarty scored again with 1:02 left in the frame as Brownwood’s lead stood at 50-45. Following a bucket by Hillsboro’s Jadarius Baxter with 19 seconds left, McCarty drained another three-pointer with three seconds left in the quarter.
“That guy, he’s a competitor,” Dalleh said of McCarty. “All you have to do is get him fired up just a little bit somehow, someway. He’s one of those that if he gets the hot hand, you don’t take him out, you let him go. Thank goodness he caught fire because we were kind of falling backward most of that quarter.”
Brownwood’s lead peaked at 10 points, 59-49, with 5:27 left on another trey by Wilhelm. Hillsboro tallied the next five points to close to gap to 59-54 ahead of Wilhelm’s final three-pointer. But the Lions were eventually able to turn back the rally.
“That was great to see,” Dalleh said of holding on down the stretch. “We had some foul trouble with some guys and others had to step in and play big minutes, Theo Bryant being one of them. He’d been sick the last few days and I stuck him in there to rebound since Darrell Williams had some foul trouble. I was afraid if we went into overtime we wouldn’t have any big men left.”
McCarty finished with 22 points for the Lions, including 11 in the third period alone, followed by Wilhelm with 16, Strong with 12, nine from Isyah Campos, three from Beau Bronniman and two from Bryant.
Hillsboro was led by Baxter’s 21 points, 19 inside from Tyson Simmons, six from Blake Schroeder, four each from Fitch, Jaace Miles and Tyler Hudson, and three points from Spencer Garcia.
The Lions are off until Tuesday when they host Stephenville in their District 7-4A opener.
“Our kids compete night in and night out,” Dalleh said when asked how he felt about the team heading into the district race. “That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about too much, I don’t have to get them fired up too much. If we can keep the hot hand like we’ve been doing it’s going to be a good district race.”