STEPHENVILLE — The Brownwood Lions were pushed to their limit Tuesday night as they began defense of their District 7-4A championship, but left Stephenville with a 73-69 overtime victory over the rival Yellow Jackets.
Brownwood (20-5, 1-0), which dropped a 57-56 non-district decision to Stephenville (16-10, 1-1) at the Dublin tournament on Dec. 6, rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit then squandered a 13-point second-half lead prior to the extra session.
“It was a heck of game, a big game with a playoff atmosphere and we get to do it one more time,” said Lions head coach Nadir Dalleh, referring to the Feb. 7 rubber match at Warren Gym that could determine the 7-4A champion. “We withstood the storm in the first half and didn't panic and didn't start shooting shots we're not used to taking. We just chipped back into it and then we got the lead, and then we got a big lead. But when we get a big lead we need to learn how to take better shots. Still, a win's a win and I can't be more proud of that. I wouldn't trade these guys for anyone.”
Brandon Hamrick led the Lions with a season-high 24 points trailed by 19 from Zach Strong, 13 from John Wilhelm, nine from Beau Bronniman, five from A.J. McCarty and three points from Isyah Campos.
“I guarantee he got a double-double,” Dalleh said of Hamrick. “He put the points up and he got the boards. He played as big as anybody and that effort right there alone is the reason why we won this game.”
Stephenville was led by 23 points from Skylar Stillwell and 16 from Grayson Traweek.
The Lions gave up the first seven points of the game and trailed by as many as nine, 19-10, with a minute left in the first period. Brownwood was down 22-15 after one quarter but the Lions caught fire in the second quarter and closed the half on an 8-0 run to grab a 33-30 halftime lead. Through three periods, the Lions' lead stood at 47-37 after reaching 13 points earlier in the quarter.
Brownwood still led by eight points, 55-47, with just under three minutes left when back-to-back threes by Traweek sparked an 8-0 run. Then, with seconds remaining, Stephenville completed its comeback with a trey by Stillwell that knotted the score at 60 at the end of regulation.
Down 67-63 in overtime, Hamrick scored five consecutive points — including converting a traditional three-point play — to push the Lions back in front, 68-67.
Trailing 69-68, Strong's bucket put the Lions ahead for good, 70-69. Campos added a free throw and Wilhelm sank two more from the charity stripe with six seconds left to ice the victory.
The Lions play their District 7-4A home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Mineral Wells.