LAMPASAS — The moment unfolded just as he always imagined.
After a lifetime of visualizing, Shonderius Howard made a childhood dream reality Saturday afternoon, capping off a season-high 34-point outburst by hitting the game-winning shot.
Like most kids, Howard played the scenario out in his head countless times while alone on a basketball court. He recalls envisioning the ball being in his hands as his team trails with time expiring.
So, when the opportunity presented itself against Canyon Lake, Howard capitalized.
“My eyes just lit up whenever I saw it, and Coach told them to get the ball to me and I’d have the last shot,” the senior said. “I couldn’t miss. I knew I couldn’t miss it.”
He was right.
Howard’s layup with three seconds remaining in the game gave Lampasas a 59-57 victory against the Hawks and punctuated a stellar offensive showing for the 6-foot-2 guard.
Following a 12-point first half, Howard only missed one field goal in the third quarter, accounting for 14 of the Badgers’ 17 points. He added eight more points in the fourth quarter, including Lampasas’ final four points to complete a rally from a seven-point deficit with three minutes remaining.
The forceful assertiveness has become common, according to Lampasas head coach Rob Shivers.
“He is being so aggressive,” he said of Howard, who entered the game averaging 24 points. “Once he gets into the lane, he is just going to finish. He’s not worried about kicking it out, he’s not worried about (anything.) He is going to finish, and that was pretty much what he was doing the whole game.”
Howard connected on 15 of 24 shots in the win and only missed four of his final 12 field goal attempts, scoring 22 of the Badgers’ 33 points in the second half, but none were more critical than his last two baskets.
Trailing 57-50 in the fourth quarter, Howard triggered the Badgers’ comeback by making a layup with a little more than two minutes remaining. Lampasas (1-2) inched closer thanks to Collin Bowen’s free throw before creating a one-possession game, 57-55, on James Franklin’s layup with 1:18 left.
Moments later, Howard missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but senior post Ralph Marez grabbed one of his game-high 10 rebounds and found Howard for a game-tying jumper with less than a minute remaining.
“I just grabbed it, and Shonderius was the first guy I saw, so I kicked it out, and he busted it,” Marez said. “That shot was very clutch. He doesn’t succumb to pressure. Pressure doesn’t make him fall, he overrides it and succeeds.”
Howard proved the statement true once again after holding the ball and eyeing the clock until bolting from the perimeter into the lane, where he elevated over defenders for the game-winner.
“The fact Shon made the jumper right before (the game-winner) is the reason he made that basket,” Shivers said. “If he doesn’t make that, then the defender goes under the screen again and he has to shoot a jumper. (The previous shot forced) that guy to go over the screen.”
The Hawks, who made a dozen 3-pointers in the loss, took one final desperation heave from about three-fourths of the court, but it was not on target.
Howard added a game-high three steals and was the lone Badger to reach double figures offensively. Gary Spencer had seven points and eight rebounds, Marez scored six points, and Bowen added four points.
Lampasas scored 11 unanswered points after Canyon Lake (0-2) recorded the game’s opening field goal, but the Badgers fell behind 18-11 before using a 15-7 run to close out the first half with a slim 26-25 advantage. The Hawks led 47-43 through three quarters, extending their lead to 57-50 on Andrew Riali’s fifth 3-pointer, giving him a team-high 19 points.
It was not enough, however, to prevent Howard from living out a longtime fantasy.
“(As a kid, I pretended to be in that situation) all the time,” he said, “all the time. It was definitely one of those moments.”