LAMPASAS — Shonderius Howard knows all about heartache.
He has felt stinging losses, and he is far too familiar with the disappointment of coming up short. But on Friday, he finally experienced the elation that avoided him throughout his career.
At long last, Lampasas’ standout is playoff bound.
After his first two varsity seasons finished in frustration, Howard helped the Badgers overcome their postseason demons by beating Gatesville 47-45 in overtime, ending the program’s 12-year playoff drought while simultaneously earning the senior a sense of satisfaction.
“It was rough,” he said of his journey. “Two years in a row we finished one game out of the postseason. It was really hard, but that just makes this feel so much better. We finally broke through.”
Howard scored a team-high 15 points against the Hornets, including seven in the Badgers’ come-from-behind fourth quarter, and added a game-high four assists, but it was his defensive pressure in the game’s final seconds that clinched the victory.
With 5.54 seconds remaining in over
time, Gatesville secured a rebound off a missed free throw and pushed the ball upcourt looking to tie or possibly win with a 3-pointer. Howard, however, stopped the fastbreak, erasing any chance for a scoring opportunity by Hornets point guard Justin Massey, who was forced to pass to a teammate.
By that point, the clock dwindled down to nearly nothing, and the game ended without Gatesville getting a shot off.
“It was kind of a shocking moment,” Howard said. “I just stood there for a second, wondering if this was really happening.”
For Lampasas head coach Rob Shivers, who took over the program prior to Howard’s freshman season, it was especially rewarding to share the moment with his star.
“I know he wanted it so bad,” Shivers said. “At points, it seemed as if he wanted it too bad. So I was just proud for him because, like me, he could just kind of breathe for a second and say, ‘All right, we did it.’”
Lampasas last made the playoffs in 2001, defeating Montgomery 57-54 in a bi-district game before falling to Class 4A No. 1 Beaumont Ozen, which sported current NBA player Kendrick Perkins, in the area round.
With a victory at Llano in Tuesday’s regular season finale, the Badgers (11-17, 4-5 District 8-5A) would force a rematch against the Yellowjackets on Friday, with the winner claiming the district’s third seed.
Over the past two seasons, Lampasas has been unable to emerge victorious in critical games. In 2012, the Badgers were eliminated from playoff contention after falling to Salado in a must-win situation. Last year, Gatesville ended Lampasas’ hopes in an identical scenario.
But this season, the Badgers, and Howard in particular, refused to allow history to repeat itself.
“The neat thing with him was in the fourth quarter, when we were coming back and taking the lead, he was stepping up and making plays,” Shivers said. “For three years, we’ve been through all these district games and had games where we’ve had leads and lost them or gone through games where we knew if we win we are in the playoffs and lost.
“So now, to win one of those, it is like a new chapter.”
While the Badgers hope to extend their season with a deep postseason run, regardless of how things go, Howard wrote his storybook ending.
“It feels great,” he said. “Finally getting into the playoffs, it just feels great.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org