(Buda) - In the span of 2.49 seconds on Tuesday, Seguin senior Mark Garcia turned trepidation into jubilation for the Matadors and their fans in the first round of the 5A boys basketball playoffs.
With every bit of a 12-point, fourth-quarter Seguin lead squandered and Austin-Lanier trying to set up a potential game-winning shot, Garcia stripped the ball away from the Vikings' Tajik Bartholomew after the inbounds pass, took one dribble, heaved the ball from mid-court, and watched it carom off the backboard and into the basket at the buzzer to give the Matadors a 71-68 win at Bales Gym in Buda.
“I’ve been coaching for 32 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been associated with even a regular season game where somebody hits a half-court shot to win,” Seguin head coach Dwayne Gerlich said. “It looked good when it left his hands for me.”
The Lanier inbounds play was designed for shooting guard Davion Buster, a 2,000-point career scorer, but Christian Martinez denied him the ball and forced Martez Barron to throw it to Bartholomew, who attempted to dribble through a trap by Garcia and Xavier Bateman.
“Me and X double teamed him, I cut him off, I ended up with the ball, I stole it and threw it up – sent it to God,” Garcia said. “I seen it lined up and I looked at it and said ‘ooh, there it goes.”
Seguin overcame an early 8-0 deficit with an 18-5 run and led 18-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Matadors turned a 35-29 halftime cushion into a 53-42 advantage heading into the fourth period, and led by 12 early in the final frame.
Buster, who finished with his season average of 27 points, sparked a furious Lanier rally that knotted things up at 68-all with 22 seconds to play. Seguin turned the ball over on the ensuing possession against the Vikings' press, but the Matadors played suffocating defense over the next 19 seconds and forced Lanier coach Joseph Pendell to call timeout with 2.49 seconds remaining.
“I’m real proud that the guys hung in there,” Gerlich said. “We should have never let it get down to a tie game, but they hung in there.”
Buster was brilliant for Lanier, but he wasn't the most dominant player on the court. That distinction belongs to Seguin's 6'4" senior post Cedric Ward, who totaled a game-high 30 points. Ward scored 17 in the first half and added 13 more after the intermission on a variety of crafty low post moves, jump-hooks, and put-backs after offensive rebounds.
“It was like no one was there, no one was there,” Ward said of the Lanier defenders who attempted to guard him. "They have great guards, but the post work needs a little work. Thank God I took advantage of it. It was a golden opportunity, and hopefully I took it right.”
Bateman added 12 points and hit three three-pointers, and Jay Sayles finished with eight before fouling out. Trystin Silas scored six points, while Garcia, Martinez, and Tyler Fricke had five apiece.
Bartholomew (18) and Keondre Spencer (17) joined Buster in double figures for Lanier.
Before Tuesday, the Seguin boys basketball program hadn't won a playoff game since 2005, and the Mats were 0-3 in the post-season during Gerlich's tenure as head coach.
"When we looked at the bracket, we felt like we had a chance to win this game, and that's all we were asking for," Gerlich said. "The kids took it to heart, and played hard, and did what I asked of them. We got the ball inside and played a little inside-out game, and it gave us a chance to win. We look the bracket, and the next game, say that we have a chance again. Not saying it's going to happen, but we do have a chance, and that's all we're asking for, and that's what playoff basketball is all about."
The Matadors (17-13) meet Angleton in the 5A area round on Friday at 8 p.m. in Columbus. The game will air live on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com, with pre-game coverage at 7:45.