CAPTION: The Marble Falls Mustangs’ defense didn’t allow Lago Vista to have good looks at the basket and forced the Vikings to adjust in the second half. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
The Marble Falls High School boys basketball team defeated Lago Vista 68-52 Feb. 3 a day after losing to Lampasas 63-54.
The win moves the Mustangs (4-3) to second place in the District 24-4A standings though only they and Lampasas (3-4) have played seven district games thus far. That’s because the bad weather forced other members to rescheduled the Jan. 31 contests to either Saturday, Feb. 4 (Burnet at Georgetown Gateway at 6:30 p.m.) or Monday, Feb. 6.
“It was a great thing for us to refocus,” Marble Falls head coach Travis Crain said. “It’s nice when it comes together.”
That may explain in part how the Mustangs led the Vikings from midway through the first quarter — when junior guard Kody Smith gave them the lead on a driving lay-up that started a 6-2 run to end the stanza and a 14-8 advantage — to the very end.
That play foreshadowed the kind of night Smith would have as he paced the Mustangs with 25 points and when the Vikings needed to foul, the fans told their players not to foul Smith. He pointed out having a shooting night like that isn’t by accident; it takes being prepared and doing the work leading up to tip-off.
“It feels great,” he said. “I think I shoot better from the left corner.”
The second period was simply a display of basketball brilliance by the Mustangs. After Smith scored a 3-pointer from the left side for an 18-8 lead, the Vikings called a timeout and got quick bucket. But Smith matched that with another 3-pointer to launch a 19-0 run that covered 4 minutes and 30 seconds for a 37-10 lead. The Mustangs showed their versatility in getting steals they turned into quick buckets, more long-range shooting and command of the free throw line. The best part? While Smith scored seven of the Mustangs’ points that quarter, others stepped up, too. Sophomore guard Tidus Willie dropped in 12 of his 20 points during that stanza and junior guard Jamie Castillo scored a putback bucket using a pumpfake that was simply cruel to the defense.
Though Lago Vista ended the run by dropping in back-to-back 3-pointers, Marble Falls sophomore Garen Jones scored the final points of the half for a 39-16 lead.
The Vikings began the third quarter on a 12-3 run by asking their posts to drive to the basket and picking up the pace of game. Still, the Mustangs didn’t fold. Castillo stole the ball and found a streaking Smith for a quick bucket to start a 13-6 run and end the period with a commanding 54-34 lead.
The Mustangs ended the contest by knocking down 22 of 30 free throws, 9 of 12 in the final stanza. Willie was 10 for 11 from the charity stripe, while Jones went 4 for 4.
“What’s great about the kids is the ownership,” the coach said. “The kids came to me and said, ‘Coach, we want to shoot free throws.’ When you have a young team, that shows big-time growth. It’s a credit to them.”
Crain gave his players kudos for their commitment to doing the tasks that may not get much attention. When they decided to go into their stall offense the final four minutes, Lago Vista was desperate to foul. But Willie’s quickness while showing his mastery at dribbling around the defense frustrated the Vikings as they couldn’t catch him. Meanwhile, the Mustangs’ stall offense allowed 82 seconds to tick off the clock.
“Credit to our players for investing in those skills and the work,” Crain said. “When they feel confident, they can make great passes and create.”
Lampasas led by as much as 29-5. But the Mustangs refused to go down without a fight in facing a 50-28 deficit going into the final period.
Marble Falls started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run in the opening three minutes to trim the deficit to 50-37 and kept the pressure on. With just over three minutes left, the Badgers led 56-46. When Marble Falls trailed by five points and then two, Crain had one thought.
“We’re going to pull this one out,” he said. “It didn’t happen. Credit to Lampasas for getting hot and keeping us at bay. It was a great thing for us to refocus.”
He noted the Mustangs’ normal routine was interrupted because they didn’t have classes Feb. 2 because of the bad weather. Meanwhile, Lampasas was on a two-hour delay and went to school.
“There’s a rhythm,” Crain said. “You have a shoot-around and create some sort of normalcy that you can’t replicate. You’re going to school, you’re going through the day and have a normal routine.”
Still Marble Falls outscored the Badgers in the second, third and fourth periods but couldn’t overcome a slow start in the opening quarter.
“We’ve been in situations where we’ve had to fight and claw back,” Crain said. “We’ve learned lessons we’ve applied down the road. You saw that against Lampasas.”
Marble Falls travels to Georgetown Gateway Tuesday, Feb. 7. The junior varsity plays at 5 p.m., the freshmen at 6:30 p.m. and the varsity at 8 p.m.
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