HUNTSVILLE – The Connally Cadets pushed No. 7 Houston Yates for 32 minutes before the Lions escaped with a victory at the Class 4A Region 3 tournament.
Yates went on a 6-0 run in the final 35 seconds to grasp a 67-64 win over Connally on Friday night at Sam Houston State’s Johnson Coliseum.
Connally (26-13), which grabbed a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and led for much of the contest, went ahead 64-61 when guard Je’Juan Forward made a layup with 42 seconds left.
But Yates answered quickly when guard Terrand Bennett drove the ball to the free throw line and hit a jumper.
The Lions (26-7) then made a pair of free throws sandwiched around a key offensive rebound to take the lead.
Yates forward Mitchell Seraille made the first of two shots to tie it at 64. Seraille then missed the second, but guard Wellington Stovall got a crucial offensive rebound and was fouled.
Stovall made one of two free throws, giving the Lions a 65-64 lead with 17 seconds left.
Connally broke through the Yates press and had a chance to take the lead with the clock running down. Cadets coach Quinton Snell called a timeout with 4.2 seconds to go to try to call a game-clinching play.
However, guard Trajan Snell caught the in-bounds pass in the half court, but his momentum took him back court and turned over the ball.
“We were going to get a chance to get the ball in, but there was some miscommunication between my guard and my throw-in guy,” Quinton Snell said. “(Trajan Snell) was going to have enough time to create or kick it out to somebody.”
Yates guard Bryce Blackwell then made a pair of free throws for a 3-point lead and Snell’s last-second shot from half court bounced off the backboard and away from the rim.
Connally senior forward Maalik Cooper scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Cadets. Forward added 12 and Snell had nine.
Blackwell led Yates with 18 points, including three 3-pointers that helped the Lions stay close in the first half.
Yates advanced to today’s regional final to face top-ranked Silsbee, which defeated La Vega in Friday’s late game.
Connally started fast, taking control of the first quarter with a 12-3 run, capped by a pair of baskets by Snell.
That’s when Blackwell heated up from beyond the arc, nailing his third trey of the contest to give the Lions a 17-16 lead with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Connally responded and stayed in command throughout the first half.
Cooper completed a 3-point play and guard Alvin Cleveland Jr. hit a 3-pointer that put Connally in front 28-23 with 3:35 left before halftime.
Yates guard Darryl Brown hit a trey in the final minute of the second quarter, the Lions’ seventh 3-poitner of the first half, but Connally maintained a 34-33 edge at the break.
The Cadets were even in the rebound category with Yates through the end of the third quarter, but the Lions finished with a 40-28 edge on the boards.
That and a few too many turnovers kept the Cadets from advancing.
“I thought we had a chance the whole game,” Quinton Snell said. “They do such a good job of trying to speed you up and trying to get you uncomfortable. We had to make sure we valued possessions and there were some times when we got out of whack and threw it right to them.”
Connally overcame a serious injury to guard Sidney Hadden that kept him from making the trip to the regional tournament. Cadets guard Keith Black came out of the Yates game with an injury.
And Snell went down hard near the Yates bench in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. He went to the Connally bench for about a minute of game time before re-entering for the final sequence.
A downcast Quinton Snell still had a positive message for his team in the postgame locker room.
“They have no reason to have their head down,” Snell said. “I thanked the seniors for everything they did for our program and I told the underclassmen, just remember this.”
No. 1 Silsbee flusters, beats La Vega, 93-52
The No. 1-ranked Silsbee Tigers flustered La Vega on both ends of the court from the beginning and hardly ever let up as Silsbee claimed a 93-52 victory in the second regional semifinal Friday night at Sam Houston State’s Johnson Coliseum.
Silsbee shut out the Pirates and took a 22-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
La Vega’s offensive woes reached an exasperating peak when forward Kedrick James, guard Amani Gibson and forward De’Andre Reese each had shots in the paint that circled the rim and popped out on the same possession late in the first quarter.
Gibson hit a 3-pointer for the Pirates first points at the 7:52 mark of the second quarter. At that point, Silsbee led 22-3.
Reese led the Pirates with 13 points.
La Vega, the District 17-4A champion, finished its season at 24-10.
Silsbee (30-6) will face Houston Yates in the 4A Region 3 final at 1 p.m. today back at Johnson Coliseum.