BELTON — The big shot was already made, and it seemed that Belton was doomed to drop its second consecutive district game Friday night.
San Angelo Central’s Deveraux Minix hit a corner 3-pointer in front of his bench while falling out of bounds to put the Bobcats up 65-64 with 5.4 seconds left. The Tigers advanced the ball past midcourt and called timeout with 3.7 seconds left, looking to set up their most reliable scoring play.
The call out of the break — whatever it may have been — was quickly scrapped upon inbounding the ball. Jordan Ellis took the pass from Kiron Griffin and looked to hand it back. A Bobcats defender blocked the passing lane, leaving Ellis no choice but to hoist up a 25-footer that rattled in as the buzzer sounded.
Teammates swarmed Ellis as Belton escaped with the 67-65 win.
Belton (17-13, 6-5 District 8-6A) moved into a third-place tie in 8-6A with Shoemaker, which had held a one-game lead over the Tigers before a 71-45 loss to Waco Midway on Friday.
Dontori Lott led Belton with a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double. Jarian Kerley finished with 13 points and three steals. Griffin added 10 points and four rebounds, and Kayden Downs chipped in eight points on 5-for-7 shooting from the free throw line and a 3. Ellis had five points, with the long 3-pointer.
Central (10-19, 2-9) got 21 points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers from Duriell Taylor. The 6-foot-3 slasher got off to a hot start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter and 16 by halftime. Foul trouble hindered most of his production in the second half and — with Belton leading 62-60 with under 2 minutes to go — Taylor fouled out, leaving the Bobcats with a gaping offensive hole.
Minix picked up the slack, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the second half and coming up with several big shots for Central. The junior hit a 3 with 6:19 remaining to keep the Bobcats in it, trailing 54-52, and came away with timely steals to pester the Tigers.
After the Bobcats cut the deficit to 58-57 with a pair of free throws, Lott answered with a two-handed dunk on Belton’s next possession and then scored on a fastbreak layup after Elijah Eddings poked it away on the other end with 2:40 left in the game. Taylor answered with a 3 out of Central’s timeout to trim the Tigers’ advantage to 62-60.
The teams exchanged baskets up until the 1-minute mark. Central’s Michael Bonner, who’s seven points all came in the second half, had a go-ahead corner 3 rim out with 41 seconds left. After Belton failed to score on its next possession, the Bobcats called timeout with 20 seconds remaining before taking the lead with Minix’s off-balance 3.
Neither team owned a sizeable lead throughout. Central jumped ahead 15-5 in the first quarter before Belton answered with a 9-4 run to cut it to 19-14 after the first. Turnovers and fouls by Central helped Belton to a 30-22 lead after Lott grabbed a rebound, corralled his miss for another board and scored off the glass with 3:49 left in the first half. Lott put together a couple of dunks, including a one-handed slam over a Central defender that put Belton ahead 36-30. The Tigers led 37-32 at halftime after outscoring the Bobcats 23-13 in the second quarter.
The third quarter played out like much of the first half. Lott converted a baseline layup with 1:05 left in the quarter to give Belton a 46-45 lead. James Hendon made one of two free throws for Central, grabbed the rebound off is miss and had just enough time to toss up a shot that dropped in to get the Bobcats within 49-48 heading into the final frame.