By Pat Turner
Brennan stepped closer to the District 28-6A title this past week with more impressive work.
In addition, O’Connor clinched the second playoff spot and Brandeis is close to being in the post-season after its big week.
Then, there’s the battle for the fourth spot, which could be interesting as Warren (18-9, 8-7), Stevens (16-11, 8-7) and Marshall (14-14, 8-7) are in the running going into the final three games.
Nothing is completely set in stone and in 28-6A anything can happen, something that has been proven annually. The key for those involved is to take care of business down the stretch, beginning with Brennan.
The Bears (27-6, 14-1) have a two-game lead over O’Connor (21-8, 12-3) and look to wrap things up Wednesday with a win over Holmes.
Brennan moved into that situation with a 74-70 win over Stevens and an 87-76 decision over O’Connor.
Both contests had their challenges.
Against Stevens, the Bears cruised to a 36-23 lead, but the Falcons relied on the scoring of Carlton Linguard (21 points) and Khouri Perkins (19 points) to stage a fourth-quarter comeback bid.
Brennan was able to cling to the lead. Shaydon Campbell, who poured in 10 points, came through with four free throws, while Jacari Sanders provided much of the scoring by hitting 11 of his 30 points in the final eight minutes.
A major plus also came from Norman Beckford, who put in 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
In the bout with O’Connor, the Bears battled through the Panthers’ Brendan Wenzel’s 40 points to pull out the victory.
The Bears were rolling offensively, charging to a 46-38 halftime lead and controlling the game in the third and fourth periods.
Balance was Brennan’s salvation, beginning with Beckford, who manhandled the inside with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Sanders and Campbell came through with 22 points and Kyle Castille knocked in 14 points while helping Beckford with the board work.
Although the loss may have spoiled O’Connor’s shot at a district title, the Panthers appear to have a lock on second place after a 54-50 win over Clark.
Clark is out of the playoff picture, but the Cougars battled like everything was on the line.
The Panthers started strong, jumping to an 18-11 first-quarter lead behind early scores by Wenzel, who finished with 20 points, and Brandon Jones.
Clark quickly cut into O’Connor’s lead in the second quarter, pulling within 28-27 on the outside shooting of Cooper Vanlandingham.
O’Connor continued to maintain the advantage. Wenzel was solid underneath and Jones contributed a variety of ways. In addition to scoring 16 points, he dished out five assists and hauled down five rebounds.
Clark made a late run, but the Panthers survived with more key defensive stops and points from Wenzel.
Brandeis’ successful week helped the Broncos’ cause and it all began with the 55-51 win over Warren.
The victory put Brandeis (18-9, 10-5) in sole possession of third place, but the Broncos needed late heroics to get to that position.
The Broncos and Warriors were locked into a tight battle. Brandeis leaped to an early 13-7 lead in the first period, but Warren’s Jayden Campos, who finished with 10 points, and Nick Vann (12 points) rallied the Warriors to a 15-13 advantage.
Warren continued to hold advantage (29-27) at halftime, before Brandeis got on a roll in the third quarter.
After a layup by Andrew Lazinbat and Jordan Wood’s 3-pointer put Brandeis in front, 36-34, more heroics followed.
A defensive rebound by Kyle Schaefer set up another scoring drive for Lazinbat. Schaefer, who scored 14 points with five rebounds, plowed through the paint for a bucket and a 40-34 lead.
At the same time, Brandeis’ defense shined as Schaefer, Wood and Lazinbat’s board work played a key role in holding Warren to seven points.
“We were able to play team ball,” Schaefer said. “We were playing good defense. We started passing the ball better and that opened the lanes for us. We played much harder in the second half.”
Still, Brandeis needed finishing touches to seal the victory.
The Broncos received that special touch from more key buckets from Wood, Schaefer, who completed a four-point play after being fouled on a successful 3-pointer, Lazinbat and Tanner Brown.
“It was a good win,” Brandeis coach Marc Gardner said. “We talked at halftime about making the extra pass, moving the ball. In the second quarter we went through a phase where we were trying to score off one pass. We had better movement and we got better shots in the second half. The rebounding was big.”
Against Jay, a booming start got Brandeis on the right track as the Broncos sprang to a 30-13 first-period lead.
However, the Broncos had to hold off Jay the final three quarters as the Mustangs pulled within 62-58 at one stretch on clutch buckets by Danny Amezquita (16 points) and Steve Sifuentes (14 points).
Like the Warren contest, Brandeis came up with the big plays. Schaefer delivered his share, putting in 24 points with seven rebounds. Ty Fontenot hit 24 points and Brown added 14.
“We’re starting to play better,” Schaefer said. “Ever since the second half of the Brennan game (a 70-62 loss), we have been clicking. We’ve been able to get wins. We have to keep the intensity and show what we can do.”
Stevens, Warren, Marshall
Stevens rebounded from the loss to Brennan with a 52-47 win over Taft.
The victory, coupled with Warren’s 69-62 loss to Marshall, put the Falcons into a fourth-place tie with the Warriors.
At the same time, Marshall pulled within a game of the Falcons and Warriors.
Stevens closes out its season against O’Connor, Brandeis and Holmes. Warren faces Clark, Brennan and O’Connor, while Marshall plays Jay, Taft and Brandeis.
Marshall stayed in the running with a 51-45 win over Holmes, followed by the victory over Warren with the offensive work of Sayvon Frye, who scored 29 points with 16 rebounds against Holmes and 15 against the Warriors, Diego Walton, Hayden Gutierrez and Jayden Garcia.
A big week awaits District 28-5A leader Harlan (18-9, 13-1).
The Hawks are looking for a title during their first year at the varsity level and a win over second-place Southwest (17-11, 11-2) would provide it.
Southwest defeated Harlan in the first meeting, but the Dragons also dropped contests to Southside and Southwest Legacy, enabling the Hawks to move into the top spot.
Harlan stayed in that spot this past week with an 84-72 win over Medina Valley and a 78-38 zapping of Legacy.
A 25-12 burst in the second period sparked by Jelen Hanspard, who popped in 30 points, Ja’Kobe Barkley (21 points) and Elijah Lomas (20 points) enabled the Hawks to take command of the MV contest.
Hanspard was also sharp against Legacy with a 22-point output. Justin Ostaszewski helped out with 10 points.
For more images from the games click here