By Pat Turner
Round two of the boys’ basketball playoffs turned into heartbreak for Brennan, O’Connor, Stevens and Harlan this past Friday.
Teams from the Austin area were responsible for delivering the disappointment.
In Class 6A area play, Brennan and Stevens lost in overtime. Brennan went two extra periods before falling to Lake Travis, 58-56. Bowie slipped past Stevens, 56-54. O’Connor appeared to be on its way to knocking off defending Region IV champion Westlake, but a last-second shot gave the Chaparrals a 56-55 win.
In addition, Harlan saw its magical inaugural season come to a close in in a 74-61 loss to Reagan in the 5A area round.
The week started positive for all four NISD teams. Brennan rolled past Madison, 70-61. Stevens, which earned the fourth playoff spot the final game of the season, took down 27-6A champion Johnson, 56-39, behind 19 points from Khouri Perkins and 14 by Carlton Linguard. In addition, O’Connor ran by Reagan, 75-57.
Harlan, coming off a 28-5A championship, made its first playoff appearance memorable with a 66-54 victory over Highlands.
The good fortune didn’t continue. However, all four teams had their opportunities to extend their seasons.
Brennan (26-7) appeared to have the edge over Lake Travis after carrying a 38-33 lead into the fourth period. But the Cavaliers turned things in their direction.
A big break for Lake Travis came midway through the period when Norman Beckford, who scored 10 points and played a big role on the boards with Jordan Smith, fouled out. In addition, the Cavaliers began hitting their shots more consistently and raced to a 48-43 lead with 1:57 remaining.
Brennan received a huge boost of energy when Jacari Sanders, who scored 10 of his 28 points in the fourth, bombed in a 3-pointer to close the deficit to 50-48.
However, Lake Travis continued to stay in front and had a chance to wrap things up when going to the free throw line with 22 seconds remaining clinging to a 52-50 advantage. However, the Cavs only converted one of the freebies, giving Brennan a final chance at sending the game into overtime.
Sanders delivered with another three to knot the score at 53-53.
The two teams battled through a scoreless first OT even though both had opportunities to pull out a victory. Brennan missed three times at the line. Lake Travis worked the ball around for a sure shot in the final minute, but the Cavs were unable to connect.
Brennan and Lake Travis managed to score in the second OT but missed free throws once again came back to bite the Bears.
After a miss at the line prevented the Bears from breaking a 56-56 tie, Lake Travis pushed the ball down court before John Wetter nailed a shot from the key with 4.5 seconds remaining.
Brennan was looking to send the came to a third overtime but a turnover in the paint enabled the Cavaliers to escape with the victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance on the defensive end,” Brennan coach Koty Cowgill said. “We got down early and came back. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make at the end. The ball didn’t bounce our way. That happens sometimes.”
Cowgill saw the season as a success after watching his Bears win their second straight district title.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Cowgill. “We’re the first program at Brennan to win back-to-back district titles. They accomplished a lot. They’re a great group of kids.”
Harlan coach Jarvin Hall had same feeling of accomplishment with his squad. Being the new kids on the block, the Hawks had to grow up quickly to make the grade.
When things started clicking, the Hawks got on a roll, starting with a run to the 28-5A title.
The Hawks (22-10) were also sharp in their bi-district encounter with Highlands as Elijah Lomas (25 points) and Jelen Hanspard (21) leading the victory.
Things unraveled against Reagan as missed opportunities and the Raiders’ balanced scoring ended Harlan’s season.
“We played hard,” Hall said. “The game was sort of bouncing all over the place. We were hoping to get ahead. We did a little but, but the ball bounced their way a little bit. Reagan shot the ball really well. We made mistakes and they made us pay for it.”
Still, the first year was a positive step.
“What a year,” Hall said. “It shows what hard work will do. For a first-year program these kids did a lot. They believed in and bought into the system.”
O’Connor (24-10), runner-up in 28-6A, started the playoffs on fire. Using the scoring of Brendan Wenzel, who poured in 24 points, Brandon Jones (18 points) and Adam Benhayoune, who scored 10 points while pounding the boards for eight rebounds, shot to a 39-25 halftime lead.
The Panthers didn’t let up in the second as more heroics came from Wenzel and Jones, while Benhayoune and Andy Deering continued to control the paint.
O’Connor was looking sharp against Westlake as Wenzel (25 points) and Benhayoune (14 points) kept the Panthers on top much of the game.
Westlake came through at the end to pull out the victory.
This was a great year,” Jones said. “I don’t think a lot of people expected us to do this. We came out every day and worked hard to get the playoffs. We had a lot of leadership. We were a pretty tight-knit group.”
Stevens (19-13) make a strong statement in the opening round of the playoffs by dominating Johnson with a swarming defense that set the tone for a balanced offensive show.
Stevens’ chances of a second-round win were looking favorable in the early going after Jerene Batts (18 points), Carlton Linguard (17 points) and Perkins pushed the Falcons in front.
Bowie came back to tie the score in the fourth quarter and got the edge in OT with late buckets.
Brandeis (21-10) saw its playoff trek end in a 61-54 loss to Roosevelt.