Despite already earning a 58-28 win over the crosstown rival Brahmas in the season opener, Sealy Head Coach Ray Dabney knew that game wouldn’t matter when the teams met up again in the Tigers’ home den.
It would take all 24 minutes, but don’t worry we’ll get there.
A.J. McGee started the scoring and Noe Navarro added a three to grab an early 5-0 lead for the home team but Austin Leuschner scored five points of his own to tie the game quickly.
Not long after, Hogan June supplied a layup through contact and made the following free throw to take an 8-7 lead for Bellville. Although that was the only lead the visitors held all night, they were seemingly never out of it, especially in the final seconds but as previously mentioned; we’ll get there.
Before the first frame was over, Ivan Bolden showed signs of being healthy again after missing the early-week matchup against Madisonville with an ankle injury and got all the way up on a fast break and slammed a dunk home, sending the Sealy student section into a frenzy.
Navarro added another basket before the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter of play and the scoreboard showed the Tigers in front by a 15-10 score.
The second quarter was much of the same with both teams battling back and forth, trading buckets although Sealy stayed ahead and increased its lead by the time the halftime buzzer rang.
Terrel Brooks scored seven points on the night and they all came in that second frame to send the Tigers to the locker rooms with a 34-28 lead.
Similarly, all five of Clay Roberts’ points came in the third quarter where he opened another second half with a three-ball. McGee scored four more points himself before Dabney utilized a mass-substitution, replacing all five players in black and gold on the court.
Isaac Washington made a pair of free throws after that change but those would be the last points for Sealy in the frame although they still held a 45-38 lead going into the final quarter of play.
That last frame started slow for the host Tigers, with a pair of McGee free throws breaking nearly a three-minute scoring drought to begin the quarter.
In that time, the Brahmas only scored four points to begin to erase the deficit they faced but shortly after sent McGee to the free-throw line a host of times.
Two of his trips were courtesy of intentional fouls by Bellville, clearing everyone else out of McGee’s half of the court. He missed only one of his attempts to extend the Tiger lead to double digits and forced a Bellville timeout with 3:53 showing on the clock.
Soon after, McGee returned to the line again and split a pair of shots before Bolden added another bucket to push the score to 55-42, Sealy’s largest lead of the night.
The Brahmas were not discouraged however and chipped five points off the deficit and used a timeout to rally the troops with 2:12 left to play.
While McGee added his team-leading 19th and 20th points they were the last for the Tigers while Bellville added another five of its own and used another timeout, trailing just 57-52 with only 31 seconds left to play.
Another Brahma basket put them within a single possession of tying the game and before the final buzzer sounded, Conner Poppe threw up a shot from behind the arc and although it did not fall, he was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with three shots and just over a second left.
The first two fell through and Bellville was only a shot away from sending things to overtime but whistles blew and officials pointed to the Sealy bench where Dabney had just used a timeout.
“I was thinking about using it,” he said. “It was going through my head then [assistant] coach [Cody] Carruthers said, ‘Hey, call a timeout,’ so I called timeout.”
In that brief break, the Tiger fan section moved from behind the hosts’ bench and to the other end of the court where Poppe was set to attempt the final shot.
The noise level rose as #12 in red received the ball and lifted the ball toward the hoop, ultimately missing just to the right, falling aimlessly into the hands of Ja’Marris Cotton who dribbled out the remaining fraction of a second to secure a win, albeit an ugly one, for Sealy.
Although his Tigers walked off the court victorious, Dabney knew the game should have gone differently.
“It shouldn’t have been that close,” he mentioned. “A win is a win but I’m not happy with it. I know my kids can play harder.”
After the conclusion of that game, Sealy headed to another tournament in Schulenburg where coach Dabney hoped to instill the lessons of not throwing the ball to the wrong spot and not allowing their opponents to have more than two looks at the basket.
In addition, he hoped his offense could pick up the slack after missing a host of layups while also not converting a lot of three-point opportunities.
In the end, it was indeed a win and it moved the Tigers’ record to a 7-2 mark which is still miles ahead of where the team was at this point in last year’s season.