Brownwood advances to face Burkburnett at 6 p.m. Friday in Graham after first postseason victory since 2012
GRANBURY — Having led for just one minute and 48 seconds during the entire first half Tuesday night, the District 7-4A champion Brownwood Lions found themselves down by only one point at halftime in their Region I-4A bi-district playoff game against the 8-4A fourth-seeded Springtown Porcupines.
The Lions found a higher gear during intermission as they came out of the halftime locker room and erupted for the first 15 points of the second half, which fueled Brownwood’s first postseason triumph since the 2011-12 campaign, a 70-52 victory over the stunned Porcupines.
“They were gashing us big time with our zone and I decided to change up our 1-3-1 zone a little bit back to the way we used to run it,” said Lions head coach Nadir Dalleh, whose team trailed 31-30 at the break. “Give all the credit to Ryan Riker on the back side. He busted his tail from corner to corner and that prevented everything. It helped us cover the wings better, the top better, he just made the zone happen.”
The second half began with an immediate steal at half court by Isyah Campos, who converted the takeaway into a layup and a 32-31 Brownwood (22-10) lead. The floodgates remained open until the 3:39 mark of the third period, when Springtown (16-14) tallied its first points of the second half.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way the kids came out after halftime,” Dalleh said. “This was a big win for us. These kids respond, there’s no doubt about that.”
Following Campos’ bucket that pushed the Lions in front for good, A.J. McCarty followed with a three-pointer — one of 11 long-range daggers by Brownwood, including five in the third period alone. McCarty delivered another jumper, then John Wilhelm knocked down a trey ahead of a steal and coast-to-coast dunk by Zach Strong, which brought the Brownwood faithful to its feet and forced a Springtown time out with the Porcupines in a 42-31 hole at the 4:44 juncture.
“That was huge. The momentum changed and you could see it,” Strong said of the Lions’ quick start to the second half. “On the defensive side of the ball we started rebounding better and blocking out. We switched it up on defense a lot and it get really intense on that end. We were all screaming and jumping up and down and they were calling time outs. We just kept it rolling.”
Campos, who buried five three-pointers, sank his second of the quarter to cap the Brownwood surge as the Lions opened a comfortable 45-31 advantage.
“That set the tone for the rest of the game,” Campos said of the 15-0 run. As for his performance from beyond the three-point arc, Campos added, “Perimeter shooting, that’s part of our game and we work on that a lot. They started falling for us in the second half.”
Strong and Campos both finished with a team-high 17 points followed by 13 each from Wilhelm and McCarty, four points from Darrell Williams and three points each from George Nichols and Riker — coming on three-pointers.
Springtown was led by Riley Comiskey and Camden Chesney with 12 points apiece, along with Jayden Badillo with 10 points.
The Porcupines jumped out to a 9-2 lead at the 4:35 mark of the first quarter and the Lions were forced the play catch-up the rest of the half.
Brownwood closed the gap to 19-16 by the end of the first period and took its first lead, 27-26, when McCarty scored following an offensive rebound with 2:33 left in the half. A three-pointer by Riker with 1:03 left looked as if it might give Brownwood the halftime edge, but James Wann nailed a trey just before the buzzer to give the halftime advantage to Springtown.
“We started off slow, our shots weren’t falling and they seemed to be hitting everything,” Campos said. “We talked in the locker room and fixed some things, started to hit our shots and picked it up on defense.”
After outscoring Springtown 23-8 in the third period, the Lions carried a 53-39 advantage into the final period. The Porcupines were able to creep within seven points, 57-50, with 4:14 remaining. Just when it appeared the momentum might be slipping away from the Lions, a trey from Campos and an offensive putback by McCarty boosted the lead back to a dozen points, 62-50, with 3:20 remaining.
The Lions went on to tally eight of the game’s final 10 points to punch their ticket to the area around, where they will face Burkburnett (22-10) — which defeated Big Spring, 85-69, in bi-district action — at 6 p.m. Friday in Graham.
“Coach (Danny) Nix has been doing a great job at Burkburnett for 30 years,” Dalleh said. “They’re a team that loves to get up and down the floor so we better have our track shoes on.”