HARKER HEIGHTS — Celneque Bobbitt likes his team like he likes his collard greens — with some seasoning.
“It’s like the greens everybody’s cooking right now, they taste a little bit better if you cook them two days before Thanksgiving, ’cause if you cook them on Thanksgiving they don’t have any seasoning on them,” Bobbitt said. “So guess what, we’re in the pot but we don’t have any seasoning on yet.”
Two days before he sits down to what is sure to be a big meal, Bobbitt’s Harker Heights Knights got a good taste of truly seasoned opponents Tuesday as 4A No. 13 Austin LBJ rolled up a 17-9 third quarter to spark a second-half rally for a 67-57 road win.
“When they got back into the game, that’s where you test your character,” Bobbitt said, “and ... when the going got tough, we didn’t get tough, and that’s the difference. They’re used to getting tough.”
LBJ’s 6-foot-5 junior Ethan Gilbert showed the Knights what a big man is supposed to look like, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds, eight more than any of the Heights’ post players.
“This is exactly the thing that we needed,” Bobbitt said.
“That’s the type of games that will get us ready to play the DeSotos and the Ellisons, the Duncanvilles and the Midways of the world,” he added. “I’ll take a good loss over a shabby win any day, because now we have stuff (to work on).”
The Knights were outrebounded 30-21 as guard Cameron Delaney led the team with seven rebounds. Despite being one of the area’s tallest teams, with only one player listed under 6-foot, Heights’ trio of 6-5 posts Andre Hughes, Roderick Taylor and Celneque Bobbitt II combined for just five boards, all coming on the defensive end.
Bobbitt II, a sophomore, led the Knights (2-1) with 16 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, while junior point guard Josh Delaney had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists; and Cody Halverson added 13, nine coming from three 3-pointers.
The Jaguars (3-0) opened the second half with a 15-5 run over the final 5½ minutes of the third quarter, begun with one of three dunks by Lawrence Ammons before Gilbert rolled up 12 straight points by himself, started by a scoop-and-score with 4:54 remaining.
“That’s just like a dog when he gets that first taste of blood, they locked down and put a rottweiler lock on us,” Bobbitt said, “and lo and behold, that’s when the city boys (LBJ) came and the ivy league boys (Heights) backed down a little bit.”
Leading 41-37 entering the fourth quarter, the Jaguars’ pressure began to cause the Knights fits, as a fumbled ball by Bobbitt II led directly to a scoop-and-score three-point play by Jabrell Scott to spark a 10-3 run over the next 1½ minutes to balloon a 45-41 lead to 55-45 with 3:55 left in the game.
“The difference was all the hustle points,” Bobbitt said.
By then, it was too late as LBJ sealed the game at the line, making 8 of 13 from the charity stripe over the game’s final 1:51.
Heights, after blowing out its first two opponents in the first quarter, jumped out to a 10-0 advantage thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Josh Delaney and Halverson and a coast-to-coast layup from Bobbitt II with 4:59 to play in the opening frame.
The Jaguars responded to pull within 10-8 but Heights’ finished 5-for-5 from inside the lane and pulled ahead 19-10 by the end of the first.
Gilbert drilled a pair of 3-pointers of his own, two of his four in the game, to pull LBJ within 21-20 midway through the second quarter, but once again the Knights stretched it back out from the free throw line, scoring seven of their nine second-quarter points from the charity stripe over the final 2:42 of the first half.