Brian Young estimates he gave himself around 1,500 reminders on Friday.
“Think Positive! Think about a positive outcome! Think about talking to the team after the win!”
Still, the Tivy boys coach couldn’t help but dwell on all the terrible outcomes that might unfold on Friday night. His anxieties were understandable. The Antlers were on the heels of two demoralizing defeats — a blowout in Boerne and a heartbreaker at home against Harlandale. As a result, they entered Friday’s game against Seguin with their playoff hopes on life support. They could secure a postseason berth with a win. But a loss meant they were going to have to receive some outside help if they wanted to make the playoffs for the third straight year.
“I was a little more tense,” Young said. “I knew it was a must for them and a must for us. That’s enough to make anybody uptight.”
Fortunately for Young, his players didn’t betray any symptoms of nerves. Tivy methodically stretched their lead to double digits in the second half before cruising to a 50-41 win at Antler Gym. Freshman Jackson Johnston (14), Jackson Young (13) and Abraham Viera (11) each finished in double figures for the Antlers (21-12, 10-5). The Antlers can finish third in the district standings with a win against Memorial on Tuesday and a Champion loss to Harlandale.
“I’m not going to lie: The kids played a lot looser than I coached,” Brian Young said. “I knew in the end I could call any play I wanted, throw any defense out there. If they wanted it more than their opponent, then we were going to come out victorious. Seguin is a good team. Man, we have a tough district. It’s a war zone; there are no nights off.”
Indeed. District 26-5A features a little bit of everything — Division-I athletes, great shooters, physical posts and crafty coaching. The Matadors (18-15, 8-7) employed a familiar strategy against the Antlers, sending double teams to Tivy’s top three scorers (Jackson Young, Johnston and Viera). They successfully limited the three players’ production, as the trio entered halftime with a combined 17 points.But they weren’t able to stop Gorham from slashing through the lane and scoring contested layups. The senior guard dropped 6 first-half points and forced a couple steals to propel the Antlers to a 23-18 halftime cushion.
I thought he played a solid, solid game tonight,” Brian Young said.“If he plays his game, which is a slasher-type basketball and uses his athleticism to rebound, he’s going to help us like that. On defense, he’s the most athletic kid we have if he just doesn’t gamble. He’s really hard to score on.”
Gorham’s scoring in the first half opened up opportunities for Tivy’s posts in the second half. Viera buried a triple to extend the lead to 31-24. Johnston snagged an offensive rebound and scored on the next possession. Then, Viera knifed through a double team, banked a shot off the glass and drew a foul, later draining the ensuing free throw to complete the 3-point play. The third quarter concluded with the Antlers leading 36-26.
Johnston began the fourth quarter by also scoring deep in the post and drawing a foul. From there, Tivy’s lead never dipped below 7, knocking down free throws to salt away the game.
Brian Young’s attempts at positive visualization had paid off: He was going to give a postgame address in a triumphant locker room. He congratulated his players on the clinching a playoff berth, and then on cue, reminded them they had practice at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
“I’m thankful to God that we are in the playoffs, because this group of kids is a really good group of kids,” Brian Young Said. “They are good-hearted people. I like to see people who have character and class get into the playoffs."