Coach Brian Young wasn’t too talkative after his Tivy boys’ 54-50 loss to Harlandale on Tuesday at Antler Gym.
Then again, there wasn’t too much to say. The Antlers (20-12, 9-5 District 26-5A) were on the verge of securing a signature victory, but couldn’t finish. They had the ball with 6.8 seconds left, trailing 52-50, but turned the ball over on their final possession. Harlandale’s Nate Espinosa scored a layup at the buzzer to seal the win.
Young only needed two words to summarize Tuesday’s defeat.
“It hurts,” Young said.
The game was also a duel of differing basketball philosophies. The Antlers wanted to play slow and feed the ball to their posts, Abraham Viera and Jackson Johnston. The Indians (21-7, 10-3) wanted to run in transition and launch 3-pointers. The Antlers succeeded in dictating the game’s tempo, and Viera (19 points), Johnston (14) and Jackson Young (15) often capitalized on their size advantage in the post. But the Antlers struggled to defend the perimeter, as the Indians buried 14
triples. That ultimately proved to be the difference Tuesday.
“They shot comfortable 3-pointers, not many of them were contested,” Brian Young said. “They did what they had to do with their lack of size, and we tried to do what we have to do with our size. They won.”
When the Indians weren’t splashing triples, Tivy prospered. The Antlers rode a 17-2 run to seize a 23-17 lead. Jackson Young then opened the second with a 3-pointer to give the Antlers’ their largest lead.
But for the remainder of the third quarter, Harlandale seemingly couldn’t miss from beyond the arc. The Indians connected on seven 3-pointers to grab a 41-39 lead at the end of the third. On cue, Andrew Martinez drained a triple at the start of the fourth. A few minutes later, Caleb Lara drilled another triple to stretch Harlandale’s lead to 49-41.
But even with all made 3-pointers, the Indians didn’t bury the Antlers, who mounted one final rally. Johnston grabbed an offensive rebound and dished an assist to Jackson Young to slice Harlandale’s lead to 51-48 with 2:32 remaining. Young then threaded a pass in traffic to Gorham to further melt the deficit to 52-50 with 20 seconds left. Lara drew iron on the front end of a one-on-one, and Johnston hauled in the miss, giving the Antlers an opportunity to send the game into overtime or win with a triple.
Brian Young elected to go for the victory, drawing a play for Viera, the inbounds passer, to roll off a screen and attempt a 3-pointer at the top of the key. Espinosa, though, intercept Jackson Young’s pass and scored at the buzzer.
The Antlers don’t have much time to lament Tuesday’s heartbreaker. With a win, the Antlers would have had a chance to finish No. 2 in the district standing. Now, they will likely be playing for a playoff berth on Friday when they host Seguin (18-14, 8-6), who defeated Tivy 52-47 in the first meeting.
“You have to move forward,” Brian Young said.