The TLCA Eagles came into Ballinger on Friday, February 8, 2019, and took on the Bearcats in a fast paced game that saw double digit lead changes erased in a matter of minutes with a frenetic pace set by both teams. The teams are bound for the playoffs and this game was a great warm-up game for each of them.
TLCA came into the game ranked #2 in 3A Region 1 District 4 with an overall record of 21-4 and a district record of 9-1. Ballinger sits at 3rd in the district with an overall record of 18-12 and a 7-3 record in district play. The TLCA Eagles have soared this year, scoring an average of 60.8 points per game while giving up a 45- point per-game average.
The Bearcats have put up 50-points per game and also given up 45-points per game on average. The Wall Hawks are first place in the district with a district record of 11-0 and an overall record of 27-3, followed by TLCA and then Ballinger. The other four teams in the district, Brady, Sonora, Grape Creek and Reagan County have losing records.
The game lived up to all of the hype and both teams kept the pace fast and furious. TLCA jumped out to a 12-0 lead when Ballinger couldn’t get a shot to fall, whether a short jumper, 3-pointer or layup. TLCA kept the fast pace going but Ballinger ran with them step-for-step and pushed the action themselves when they had the ball.
Ballinger’s 6’5” center, Marcus Toliver, was a force in the paint and contested every player that came in for a shot. On the other end of the court he’d post up and power his way to the basket. The problem was that the shots weren’t falling early for any of the Bearcats’ players. Toliver had some open shots but wasn’t getting them to drop, Cole Zentner, Cody Harral, Neo Gray and Cooper Bean were all facing a shooting drought as the Eagles cruised to a 12-0 lead on a solid run that was finally put to an end 3 minutes into the period. But if it’s one thing that the Bearcats have shown this season, it’s that they are resilient. They don’t get easily flustered and they don’t put their heads down when they fall behind. They fought their way back and held TLCA to just 2 more buckets as the Bearcats ended the first period down by a score of 14-10.
The second period was a race up and down the floor with each time keeping a quick pace. Just over 3 minutes into the second period found the Bearcats down 24-22. The game was back and forth until the period ended at halftime with Ballinger down 34-31. Ballinger continued to fight their way back, erasing TLCA leads with some key 3-point shots and mid-range jumpers by Zentner, Bean, Gray, Harral and Daniel Cavasos. Toliver established his presence in the middle and started getting some shots to go into the basket by the time the half ended.
In the 3rd period the Bearcats scored 15 points in the blink of an eye and went up by 3 points. Ballinger seemed to be hitting on all cylinders and were playing seamlessly up and down the floor. Bearcat coach Jamal Anene kept the team focused and on point as the teams entered the 4th period with Ballinger having fallen behind by 2 points. But once again the shooting woes set in for Ballinger and they were having trouble getting shots to fall. No shot went up uncontested on either end of the floor as both defenses stepped up their play but TLCA got more to fall than the Bearcats did. The shooting drought found TLCA up 57-51 with about 2 minutes left in the game. TLCA’s shooting wasn’t much better than Ballinger’s in that period but they were able to capitalize, even though Ballinger led the game in free throws attempted.
The first half had been marred by fouls as Ballinger racked up 8 fouls and TLCA came out with 10 fouls. In the second half both teams had settled into their respective game plans with the fouls coming few and far between on both sides. In the end though it was TLCA that came out on top by a score of 62-58. Ballinger only managed 9 points in the fourth quarter while TLCA scored in double figures.
Ballinger will finish their season on the road for February 12th showdown with the 12-14 Sonora Broncos. The game will have little impact, if any, on the playoff seeding. TLCA will host Wall after losing to them in a 61-38 drubbing on January 18th. A win by TLCA would create a tie in the district with both Wall and TLCA ending with an 11-1 district record.