Coming out of the halftime break with only a 10-point lead over El Campo, Reece Novicke put his Tiger teammates on his shoulders and provided a career-high 18-point third quarter to help Sealy claim an 88-57 win over the Ricebirds last Friday night.
Before El Campo registered its first points of the second half, Novicke scored five points sandwiched in between two Cody Manna buckets to break off a 9-3 run in the first two minutes of the quarter, and that was only the beginning.
From there, Novicke went on a 13-3 run of his own, burying a trio of three-pointers where the final one came from inside the half-court circle.
He noted after the game all he needed to do was see one shot fall and the rest was history.
“Once I saw the first one, I was good. I knew I just had to see one go in and I knew I would be good,” he said of finding his rhythm, leading him to pull up from the parking lot. “I was dribbling up and I saw the half-court line I was like, ‘Why not? I'm hot right now.’ I pulled up and it went in.”
From his head coach’s perspective, the senior was finally firing the ball from all points on the court.
“I've been telling this fool all year long that he's my senior and we've been counting on him for points but been kind of gun shy,” head coach Ray Dabney said. “It’s everywhere; you see it in practice, you see it in the games, you see he’s been gun shy and I was like, ‘Shoot the ball, I want you to shoot the ball, everybody wants you to shoot the ball; shoot the frickin ball!’
“‘Well coach I'm not getting the looks,’ I don't care, shoot the ball,” Dabney recounted of an exchange. “So he's been kind of hesitant but he let one fly and then I guess he found his spot and then he was good and everything looked good; ‘If I was in the gym I was good,’” he joked.
That energy, complemented by the spark provided by a healthy-sized home crowd, carried the Tigers to a dominant second half and their first win in district play.
“Fans are always a plus, especially when the fans are hollering at you and saying, ‘Go, Go, Go!’” Dabney said. “Fans always a plus and I love that. There's nothing like hometown fans; I'm a hometown boy so there’s nothing like hometown fans cheering for the hometown boys, man, giving them a little fire, adding gasoline to the fire.”
Despite a late Ricebird rally, varsity newcomer Nick Martinez provided half of the Tigers’ 20 fourth-quarter points, with Callen Rabius scoring eight and Jalen Statum scoring the other two, to secure the 31-point victory on a night where Dabney felt his team finally hit its groove.
“I just think we weren’t so bogged down on offense,” the coach said. “We didn't let little things bother us. We got out of the 'Hey, I missed the layup, I'm gonna shoot again,’ and I think that's big. The defense showed up; I think everybody did their part tonight. From the start to the finish of the game the energy was great. We didn't have any low points; even when we did miss a couple of shots, the energy stayed high and I think that's just what we needed.”
Five Sealy scorers finished in the double digits, led by Novicke’s total of 20, with Manna (16), Martinez (15), Rabius (12) and Jay Bolden (10) accounting for all but 15 of the Tigers’ points.
“Talk about just coming off the bench,” Dabney added. “Jay Bolden came off and he's always shown sparks and pops and he's just coming off surgery, but he came off the bench and, man, he lit it up there for a little bit and gave us a little bit more juice. Cam Eschenburg (four points scored) and a couple of them made some good passes on the give's and go's and stuff like that.”