Thursday, April 25, 2024

Indians hold breath, hold on to reach state finals

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In a matter of moments, the Lipan Indians went from heartbreak to ecstasy. Meanwhile, their opponents, the New Home Leopards, had celebration replaced with the suddenness of a season coming to an end.

As a result, the Indians (35-4) will be playing for a second consecutive Class 2A state championship - and their sixth overall - Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Shelbyville (29-7). The Dragons advanced with a 67-52 victory against Thrall (30-6).

New Home (31-8) goes home with a greater appreciation of what a single second can mean when it comes to winning and losing.

With .03 seconds left in overtime and Lipan leading 40-39, New Home inbounded the ball after it went out of bounds under their own basket following a scramble for possession. There was time for nothing more than basically tipping the ball toward the basket and saying a prayer.

The Leopards' Caleb Cook got the ball, and at first it appeared he got the winning shot off in time, bringing a roar from the New Home crowd as the ball fell through the basket. The light on the backboard that indicates the expiration of time didn't light up until the ball had left his hands.

However, after a closer look by the officials on replay, along with using a clock of their own, it was ruled that the shot clock started a fraction of a second late and the basket was waived off.

Lipan players, coaches and fans jumped for joy. New Home players fell to the floor, some in tears.

All watching in the arena were stunned in some fashion or another.

"I don't remember ever seeing a situation like that," Lipan coach Brent Gaylor said. "Point three has to be a tip, that's what I'd always heard.

"I think it should have been waived off immediately."

The winning point for the Indians, by the way, came on a free throw by Darius Steed with 2:09 remaining.

THE LONG WAIT

Nonetheless, there was a wait of about five minutes while officials made their final determination. Gaylor said it seemed more like an "Hour, hour and a half, I guess."

New Home coach Koby Abney said it seemed even longer, saying, "I thought it was about two hours. Your season's destiny hinges on the officials coming back and making this gesture (arms up, shot good) or that (shot waived off)."

Tyson Tarpley, the lone senior on Lipan's roster, admitted to being nervous during the wait for a decision. Then, he found out he has one more game to play and was jubilant.

"All I could think of was it could be the last game of my career," he said.

Steed added, "I saw the season flash before my eyes, all the hard work, the time put in, all over."

And that is the reality for New Home.

"I thought the shot was up before the buzzer, but they pay them (officials) to make those calls," Abney said, adding, "I appreciate our officials. They do a thankless job."

Then, he praised his players, which includes seven seniors who played their final game.

"Right now, the intensity of that moment weighs pretty heavy, but it does not detract from this group."

COMING BACK

While the ending was as thrilling as any basketball fan could hope for, it was a late comeback by the Indians that took the game to overtime.

With a minute and a half left in the third quarter, Lipan trailed 33-27 and was having difficulty holding on to the basketball. The Leopards were, in fact, on a 21-5 run.

A basket by Alberto Andreatta and a pair of free throws sent Lipan into the fourth quarter down 33-31. In the fourth quarter, the defense of both teams was put in the spotlight.

Trailing 35-33 with two minutes left, Court Gaylor of the Indians - who led all scorers with 27 points - was called for his fourth foul. Unable to capitalize, the Leopards turned the ball over with a back court call on the inbounds pass.

After each team turned the ball over one more time, Court Gaylor's steal led to the tying basket with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.

Each team had a chance for a game-winning shot in the closing seconds of regulation, but was unsuccessful.

"I was thinking, 'Please don't yell at me dad,'" Court Gaylor said with a chuckle of his fourth foul.

"I just told him, 'If you foul out, you're grounded all next week,'" the coach said with a smile.

In the overtime, Court Gaylor connected on a pair of free throws to give the Indians their first lead since 24-23 early in the second half. He then put them up 39-35 with two and a half minutes left.

"Court Gaylor is as good a freshman as has ever come through here," Abney said.

HOPING HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

The Indians and their faithful are certainly hoping history repeats itself. Friday's game was a rematch of last season's state semifinal, albeit a little less exciting, with Lipan winning 52-44.

The next day Lipan defeated LaPoynor 50-46 for the program's fifth title.

The Indians graduated all starters from that team, returning only two reserves, Tarpley and Steed. New Home also saw its starting lineup depleted.

 "Lipan lost more (players) than we did (last season). The fact that they're back here is a credit to how good coach Gaylor is," Abney said.

Class 2A Boys Basketball State Tournament

The Alamodome, San Antonio

Semifinals

Lipan 40, New Home 39 (overtime)

Shelbyville 67, Thrall 52

Championship

1:30 p.m. Saturday

New Home      9          10        14        2          4 - 39

Lipan               8          14          9        4          5 - 40

Lipan scoring: Court Gaylor 27, Alberto Andreatta 6, Darius Steed 5, Tyson Tarpley 2.

Lipan 3-pointers: Gaylor 5.

Lipan rebound leaders: Andreatta 8, Steed 7.

Lipan assists leader: Steed 4.

Lipan steals leader: Gaylor 3.

Lipan block leaders: Steed 4, Andreatta 2.

Team statistics

2-point field goals: Lipan 9-22, New Home 10-38.

3-point field goals: Lipan 5-12, New Home 4-7.

Free throws: Lipan 7-11, New Home 7-11.

Rebounds: Lipan 28 (6 offensive), New Home 28 (11 offensive).

Assists: Lipan 6, New Home 7.

Steals: Lipan 6, New Home 14.

Blocks: Lipan 8, New Home 2.

Turnovers: Lipan 18, New Home 12.

Points off turnovers: Lipan 8, New Home 17.

Points in the paint: Lipan 14, New Home 18.

Second-chance points: Lipan 8, New Home 8.

Fast-break points: Lipan 2, New Home 5.

Bench points: Lipan 0, New Home 0.