Wall boys hold off Ballinger, set up district-title game against TLCA
BALLINGER — The Wall Hawks are having to earn this district title the hard way.
Playing in one of the toughest districts in the state, the Wall High School boys basketball team is now one win away from locking up the 6-3A title.
The Hawks fought off a challenge from Ballinger on Friday for a 49-35 win that was closer than the score indicates.
Wall led by only two points heading into the fourth quarter before a strong finish.
Now the Hawks travel to San Angelo TLCA on Tuesday for what will be the district-title game.
It took overtime for Wall to beat TLCA the first time.
Wall improved to 17-5 overall and 11-1 in district, while TLCA is 21-2, 10-2.
Ballinger (19-4, 8-4) entered the week with title hopes, but the Bearcats will now have to win their final two games to ensure they at least finish tied for third place.
Ballinger trailed Wall 33-31 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Bearcats were outscored 16-4 in the final eight minutes.
"In the fourth quarter, I thought we really stepped it up," Wall head coach Travis Dawson said. "Defensively, we were really, really good. And offensively, we settled down against their man (defense)."
Wall sophomore Everson Armstrong was a force on offense with 21 points. Tate Williams added 10.
Ballinger's big three — Kenjrik Manley, Jonathan Delgado and Ryan Elliott — were relatively contained. Manley had 13 points, while Delgado and Elliott each scored eight.
Manley was sensational at times, however, and hit some difficult buzzer-beating layups at the end of each quarter.
Ballinger trailed by 11 points in the second quarter, but the Bearcats rallied to within one point in the third quarter. They twice had the chance to take the lead, but 3-pointers by Delgado and Elliott missed each time.
Collectively, Ballinger went ice cold in the final quarter.
"We just kind of ran out of gas," Ballinger head coach Jeff Holland said. "We had that slow start. I keep telling them we've got to find a way to start faster. We keep digging ourselves a hole. We did it last game against TLCA, and this game we dug ourselves a hole and had to climb back out of it. Tonight, the shots just didn't fall like they have the rest of the season.
"So we've just hit a little slump, and we've got to get back at it. We need to finish the rest of district and get tuned back up so we can go to the playoffs. Like I told the guys, 'We're already in the show. We've just got to finish this out and take care of business in the playoffs."
Ballinger finishes its regular-season schedule against Merkel and Grape Creek, which are the bottom two teams in the district standings.
If the Bearcats slip up, they could fall into fourth place.
Wall will now turn its attention to TLCA, which has lost only twice — at Ballinger and at Wall. The Eagles are undefeated on their home court.
"It's a very tough district," Dawson said. "I think there are five really, really good teams in this district (Wall, TLCA, Ballinger, Jim Ned and Clyde), and we get all of the four other ones right in a row. So it's kind of a gauntlet, and we finish off with TLCA, and they've been as good as anybody all year.
"We had a nailbiter the first time, and we were fortunate to pull it out in overtime. We know we're going to go over there and get a dogfight against a really good team that can score and get after you defensively also."
Wall 49, Ballinger 35
Wall 15 9 9 16 — 49
Ballinger 10 9 12 4 — 35
WALL — Jack Duncan 3, Everson Armstrong 21, Austin Williams 3, Miles Duncan 2, Jacob Felger 8, Drew Morrison 2, Tate Williams 10. Totals 18 10-13 49.
BALLINGER — Gavin Martinez 2, Kenjrik Manley 13, Jonathan Delgado 8, Dylan Hostetter 4, Ryan Elliott 8. Totals 16 1-3 35.
3-point goals — Wall 3 (Felger 2, A. Williams 1); Ballinger 2 (Elliott 2). Records — Wall is 17-5 overall, 11-1 in district; Ballinger is 19-4, 8-4.