GRANBURY — The Brownwood Lions paired their second consecutive District 7-4A title with a second consecutive bi-district championship Tuesday night, thanks to a 54-52 triumph over the District 8-4A fourth seed Bridgeport Bulls.
But there was nothing easy for the Lions (28-5) about Tuesday night's first-round victory.
Leading by nine points — their largest advantage of the game — with 2:40 left, the Lions looked to be on the verge of putting Bridgeport (20-13) away after post Drew Carstens — the Bulls' leading scoring with 15 points — fouled out.
Instead, Bridgeport stormed back and evened the score at 50 with 1:19 left.
The two teams traded buckets on their next trips down the court, which left the ball in the hands of Brownwood point guard Isyah Campos with 23 seconds on the clock. Campos was able to make his way down court, penetrate to the lane, use a spin move to lose the defender and roll in the decisive layup with 14 seconds left.
Bridgeport fired up a three-pointer at the buzzer on the other end, but the shot was off target, allowing the Lions to advance.
“To come out on top, we're very lucky and very grateful, that's for sure,” said Lions head coach Nadir Dalleh. “At the end of the game I knew (Bridgeport) was out of timeouts and I wasn't going to call one to give them a chance.
“That was a tale of about 200 games. We looked great at times and then we'd let a foul call or a little pressure get to us. We just have to get better at that. Those guys played hard, they're a young team and they're going to be back next year. But the good thing about this year is we are bi-district champions.”
Regarding Campos' late game heroics, Dalleh said, “He played hard but he took a beating out there. He got tossed around, but he's a little smaller than most of those guys. The biggest thing is when he hit that basket, I had a feeling these kids were going to pull it out.”
The Lions led 42-40 with 4:24 left after Bridgeport shaved a seven-point deficit to a bucket. At that juncture, John Wilhelm took over for Brownwood with three consecutive driving buckets, including one off a steal, that helped boost the lead to 49-40 with 3:16 remaining,
“John's done that all year, he can create a streak,” Dalleh said. “But after we finally got a run I think we got a little too comfortable and we can't do that moving on.”
Bridgeport's rally started with a bucket by Camden Hand then a trey from Marcus Delgado with 2:02 left. Hand and Blake Horton then made four consecutive free throws — as the Bulls were 12 of 14 from the line — to knot the score.
The Lions regained the lead on a bucket by Zach Strong with 40 seconds to go following a steal at midcourt by A.J. McCarty, but again Bridgeport pulled even when Horton's jumper fell with 23 seconds remaining.
Brownwood led 12-11 after one quarter and 25-22 at halftime as the Lions committed 10 of their 13 unofficial turnovers in the first half. The Lions knocked down 10 of 13 free throws in the first half, but finished 12 of 20 from the line for the game — including a 2 of 7 performance in the fourth period.
Campos finished with a team-high 16 points for the Lions, with 11 coming in the first half, trailed by 14 each from Wilhelm and Strong, and five apiece from McCarty and Beau Bronniman.
Trailing Carstens' 15-point effort for Bridgeport were Hand with 14, Horton with 13, Delgado with six and Nolan Hernandez and Kyler Sparks with two points each.
The Lions will face District 6-4A No. 2 seed Wichita Falls Hirschi (22-11) — a 57-39 winner over San Angelo Lake View in the bi-district round — at 7 p.m. Thursday in Breckenridge in area round action.
“I've been told 100 times they're best team in that district,” Dalleh said. “We'll have to go through somebody really good at some point so it might as well be now. They're quick, they're athletic, and they're going to put pressure on you and we have to handle it better than we did tonight.”
In other Brown County boys basketball playoff action Monday and Tuesday, Early defeated Clyde, 58-51; May upended Lometa, 59-47; and Blanket fell to Evant, 62-50.