LAMPASAS — Gary Spencer had to step up.
With leading-scorer Shonderius Howard nursing a leg injury and playing sparingly, Lampasas’ senior wing knew he needed to provide a spark, and he did.
Spencer recorded a game-high 19 points and was perfect from the floor in the first half, helping propel the Badgers to a 45-43 home victory against Austin Crockett on Tuesday.
After the win, he admitted he was looking to carry the team.
“When Shon went out, I’m the next guy to have to step up and lead the team,” Spencer said. “I’ve just got to set the tone.”
Howard started the game, but saw very little action after being pulled early in the first quarter before making a brief appearance in the second quarter.
However the Badgers (2-3) survived without their star.
Spencer made all four of his shot attempts in the opening period, including a 3-pointer, and had 11 points on 5 of 5 shooting at halftime, and Lampasas led 25-19.
With 2:20 remaining in the third quarter, the Cougars (0-5) tied the game 27-27 on Jaquaze Williams’ lone field goal, a 3-pointer, but the Badgers had an immediate response.
Following Spencer’s free throw to break the tie, senior post Ralph Marez scored on an offensive rebound and Spencer increased Lampasas’ cushion to six points, 33-27, after successfully converting an and-one opportunity with less than a minute remaining in the quarter.
The score held into the fourth quarter, and the Badgers produced their biggest lead of the game at 39-30 with approximately three minutes left as Spencer found Marcus Morrison for an easy basket.
Lampasas led 45-37 with 40 seconds remaining, but Ryan Mejia connected on two unanswered 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer, to provide the final score.
“The biggest deal was our toughness,” Badgers head coach Rob Shivers said. “We always talk about three things: We want to be the tougher team. We want to be the more fundamental team, and we want to eliminate bad basketball. We did one of the three.”
Along with his scoring, Spencer finished with six rebounds, two assists and a steal, while Morrison produced his best game of the season, posting 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
His biggest play came with less than a minute in the game as he grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and scored on the putback to extend the Badgers’ lead to 43-36.
“I felt good,” Morrison said. “We practice toughness every day — never let it go and just keep going at it.”