BELTON — Phillip Blackstock blames himself.
After a scoreless first half, the Lampasas senior exploded for a team-high 18 points, including a 10-point fourth quarter, but the production was not enough to extend the Badgers’ season.
Despite a late surge, Lampasas’ playoff run came to an end as Class 4A No. 17 Waco Connally earned a 64-59 victory to reach the regional quarterfinals.
Following the loss, Blackstock admitted feeling partially responsible for the outcome.
“I wish I could have done better in the first half,” the wing said. “I needed to play better when my team needed me most, and I let them down.”
Lampasas head coach Aaron Nuckles disagreed, though.
“These kids never back down,” he said. “I just wish we had two more minutes.”
With 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in regulation, the Badgers trailed 60-46 after the Cadets completed a five-point outburst.
Then, Lampasas began to rally as Blackstock led the way offensively before teammate Austin Martin connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the contest, making the score 64-57. Moments later, Blackstock scored after grabbing an offensive rebound, trimming the deficit to five points.
But the Badgers could not get any closer.
“Momentum was moving in our direction,” Martin said. “We just needed a few more minutes.”
Lampasas, however, lost control late in the second quarter.
The teams went back and forth to start the game with Connally (22-8) holding a 17-15 advantage following the opening period, but Lampasas tied the score at 23-23 after Martin made a free throw.
The Cadets responded by closing the half with a 10-1 run, and the Badgers spent the remainder of the game fighting to close the gap.
“I kept the guys in a little too long in the first half,” Nuckles said, “and I should have gone to the bench sooner.
“They were just wore out, and that was the difference. Connally made a run late in the half, and our legs were just tired. That hurt us.”
Lampasas (25-10) pulled within seven points, 44-37, in the third quarter, but the Cadets answered with eight consecutive points in a run bridging the third and fourth quarters.
Martin complemented Blackstock’s performance with a 16-point showing, while teammate Xavier Nix finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Additionally, Kyle Sims had a nine-point, eight-rebound outing in his final high school game.
The defeat also ends the careers of six fellow seniors, including starters Martin, Blackstock, Nix and Bryce Winter.
“We had some problems early where we weren’t on the same page,” said Nuckles of his first season with his alma mater, “but you can look at the schedule when we made the flip, and you could see how good we could be.
“I just wish I had another week with the guys.”
Blackstock echoed the sentiment.
“I think we proved a lot of people wrong who doubted us because we lost four key seniors last year,” he said. “We played really well this year.
“We finished with 25 wins, so I’d say we did pretty good.”