The Rosebud-Lott Cougars showed the playoff savvy they needed to hold off Axtell in a Central Texas Class 2A playoff battle.

Cougars junior guard Jeremy Truesdale hit three key free throws and grabbed a crucial rebound in the final minute to help Rosebud-Lott survive and advance, 54-52, on Monday night at the Robinson High School gym.

Truesdale made one of two free shots with 25 seconds left on one end to give the Cougars a 52-49 lead.

Then on Axtell’s ensuing possession, when Longhorns forward Hayden Sheffield missed a jumper from about 15 feet, Truesdale snagged the defensive rebound in the lane to all but seal the victory.

He made another free shot for a 53-49 lead and the Cougars ended up needing it.

Sheffield nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing to cut Rosebud-Lott’s lead to a point with 2.32 seconds remaining. However, the Longhorns would not get another shot before the final buzzer sounded.

The Cougars (13-15) move on in the 2A playoffs to face the winner of today’s game between Grapeland and Cross Roads.

Axtell, which finished in third place in 18-2A, ended its season at 16-14.

Guard Jaquorion Johnson scored 17 points with four assists to lead Rosebud-Lott. Guard Jaylon McKinnley pitched in 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while Truesdale finished with 13.

Rosebud-Lott coach Marvin Whitfield said McKinnley is the Cougars’ floor leader and the senior extended his season once again.

“Those guys have been here before,” Whitfield said. “McKinnley, this will be his sixth playoff game Friday in his career. Those guys know what time it is, in the playoffs they know you have to step up.”

Colton Fields led Axtell with 15 points, Sheffield had 12 points and nine rebounds and Jeff Maler added 10.

Rosebud-Lott used an 11-2 run to stretch out its largest lead of 10 points in the second quarter.

Johnson hit a trey and made a fast-break layup on an assist from McKinnley to spark the Cougars’ surge. Johnson capped the run with another basket on an assist from McKinnley to put Rosebud-Lott ahead 26-16 with 2:11 to go before halftime.

But Axtell answered with a 10-3 run that spanned halftime.

The Longhorns kept battling and tied the game at 35 when Maler hit a 3-pointer with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

Axtell’s Carson Farley went to the basket and scooped in a layup that gave the Longhorns a 43-42 lead with 4:23 to go in the fourth.

However, Johnson responded immediately by getting into the lane himself on the next trip down the floor for a layup to retake the lead.

Then McKinnley finished a 3-point play and took the ball into the lane for another basket with 3:01 remaining that helped the Cougars stay in front in the closing minutes.

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