Pflugerville Connally guard Deshawn Riddick picked up where the Gatesville Hornets’ offense left off.
Riddick scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the final 10 minutes of the game, helping the Cougars rally from a five-point deficit to win the Gatesville Holiday Tournament championship 55-53 over the host Hornets.
Riddick scored the Cougars’ (13-7) final eight points of the game and 10 in the fourth quarter to help Connally build a six-point lead, the largest by either team in the game.
Danny Byrd’s 3-pointer with 1:51 left tied the game at 49, but Riddick answered with a pull-up out of a Gatesville timeout and was then 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in the final 35 seconds to seal the win.
“He’s a good player, but he struggled early,” Connally coach Marshall Sanders said of Riddick. “They were doing some things to him and didn’t let him go where he wanted to go. But, at the end, we thought he came up huge for us.”
Held just to a pair of free throws in the first half, Riddick had a steal and fast-break lay-up that gave Connally a 39-37 lead with 1:40 left in the third quarter and capped the Cougars’ 7-0 run.
Gatesville (7-10) used an 8-2 run in the first three minutes of the third to take a 37-32 lead on a pair of free throws by Byrd, but the Hornets missed their next six shots and turned the ball over three times as the Cougars chipped into the lead before Riddick’s steal and score.
“Shots just weren’t falling for us,” Gatesville coach Thomas Winkler said of the slump in the third quarter. “We had a couple of bad breaks, a couple of turnovers and there. And, that’s just basketball. You’re not going to knock them all down. We shot pretty good overall ... but, yeah, we hit that one stretch, we couldn’t score. I probably should’ve gotten a timeout a little quicker than I did, but fatigue probably played a factor in that right there.”
The Hornets were playing their third game in two days coming out of their Christmas break.
Tobias Moore led Gatesville with a game-high 19 points. Byrd scored 13 to go along with nine rebounds and Set Martin hit two 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
Joseph Mitchell scored seven of his 11 points in the first half to give the Cougars’ offense a jolt while Riddick struggled against the Hornets’ defense. Mitchell also had a game-high 10 rebounds. The Cougars out-rebounded the Hornets 33-29 in the game despite holding a 16-6 advantage on the glass in the first quarter.
Even with the rebounding edge, the Cougars couldn’t pull away from Gatesville.
“I just think that both teams were playing really hard on the defensive end,” Marshall said. “and I think both teams kind of had an idea of what the other team and trying to do like we were a couple of chess players.”
The Cougars led by five four times in the first half, but the Hornets found ways to keep it close.
Martin and Justin Massey each hit 3s in the first quarter when the Cougars went up 5-0 and again 12-7. Moore gave the Hornets their first lead, 14-12 in the final minute of the first quarter and then scored six in the second quarter to help Gatesville keep pace with Connally, which used an 8-3 run in the period to take a 27-22 lead with 2:29 left. Gatesville closed the half on a 7-3 run to trail just 30-29 at the break.
“I think because we’re both competitive teams, we know defense wins games and that’s what we focused on,” Moore said.