Even in a historic season, unsettling trends can arise.
For Teague, that issue has taken the form of taking its foot off the gas pedal with big leads in the second half. It reared its head Friday night in the Class 3A Region III semifinals against Kountze, when a 30-point lead shrunk all the way to five.
But Teague managed to hold on despite Kountze’s 34-point fourth quarter and will play for its first-ever trip to state after a 78-71 victory in a battle of Lions at Midway High School.
“It’s exciting because like I told these guys this is probably one of the best teams I’ve ever coached 1-12,” Teague coach Dexter Patrick said. “I told them if you want to get out of the confusion of which is the best team that has ever come from Teague, you’ve got to win tonight. But if you want to be great and legends, let’s go win state.”
To do that, Teague (25-8) will need a regional championship first. Only Jarrell stands in the way, and those teams will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at Midway for the state berth. Jarrell edged La Marque, 76-69 in overtime, in Friday’s other semifinal.
Mylan Shed scored 27 points to lead Teague against Kountze, and Keshawn Rice put in 22. T.J. Stanford led Kountze with 23 points.
Teague and Jarrell met earlier in the season, with the Lions taking the victory. But that was a long time ago, and both teams are different this time around. That’s particularly true of Jarrell, which was playing without 6-foot-7 Qynique Dabon, who had 23 points in his team’s win Friday.
“The first thing that comes to mind was (Jarrell coach Drew) Sumner telling me after that game that we’ll see you in the playoffs,” Patrick said. “We wanted the rankings throughout the year, and Jarrell went above us. It’s going to be a tough task. When we played them the first time (Dabon) wasn’t eligible at the time. He’s a big guy, but we run. Our motto has been heart over height anyway. We’re not worried about the height. We just want to put the heart on the court and play fast.”
The pace Friday went beyond fast to frenetic nearly the entire way through. Both teams were ready to run at all times, whether it was off of a turnover, an out of bounds play or taking it out of the net after a made basket.
Teague went on runs of 10-0 late in the first quarter and 11-0 early in the second to turn what had been an 11-all tie into a 32-14 advantage.
That margin stood at 40-21 at halftime and stretched as far as 59-29 before Kountze (24-11) started working its way back in the game. It was still a 21-point lead at 59-38 after the third despite five points in a nine-second span from Stanford to close third frame.
Patrick knew no lead was safe because of the tempo, and Kountze validated his worst fears with a 14-0 run that cut the lead to as little as five with 2:40 still left to hang on.
“I’m telling the guys to settle down,” Patrick said. “They kept clock-watching, and I kept telling them to quit playing not to lose. Play to win the game, and that’s a whole different style of play, playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win.”
It was still a five-point game with 1:237 to go, but Shed finally allowed the Teague fans to relax with a pair of layups as the clock wound near a minute to go.