Shoemaker post Torenzo Saunders knew Tuesday’s rematch with Killeen would be a knock-’em-down, push-’em-around, physical contest in the paint.
And that’s just how the 6-foot-5 Saunders is used to playing.
The junior scored a game-high 17 points to help Shoemaker beat Killeen 60-49 at Shoemaker High School.
“We were physical, throwing bodies at each other, that’s the type of game that I’ve played all year,” Saunders said.
The Grey Wolves (16-6, 6-2 District 8-5A) ran their win streak to six games since losing their first pair of district games while the Roos (17-9, 4-4) have dropped their last two district contests.
The teams opened district play on Dec. 17, a game that Killeen won 56-42 at the Killeen High gym. Grey Wolves coach Emund Prichett said the Shoemaker team that took the floor last night is a lot different than the one that played Killeen 36 days ago.
“We’re getting better,” Prichett said. “My guys believe in what I’m telling them. We’re just working harder and getting better every week.”
Texas-Pan American signee Brian Long led the Roos with 16 points while Shoemaker wing Shane Johnson chipped in 10.
Shoemaker’s offensive attack started from the outside and worked in toward the paint as the game went on.
After Killeen junior Dadrien Moore hit the second of two free throws to put Killeen ahead 7-6, Saunders and the Shoemaker bigs took control of the paint.
Saunders drove for a basket that put Shoemaker ahead 8-7 in the final second of the first, but more importantly sparked a 20-6 Grey Wolves run.
“The first time we were intimidated at first,” Saunders said. “This time we actually knew they weren’t anything different. All we had to do was come out and guard them.”
The Grey Wolves outrebounded the Roos 9-4 in the second quarter and outscored them 12-4 in the paint to take a 27-15 lead at halftime.
Shoemaker finished with a 28-20 rebounding edge and outscored Killeen 28-20 in the paint.
“I always thought that the team that wins the rebounding battle usually wins the game, so our goal is to outrebound all of our opponents,” Prichett said. “Our goal is to block out and give them one shot at time and that’s what you’ve got to do to play strong defense.”
Shoemaker missed all eight 3-point shots in the first half, but shot 64 percent (11 of 17) inside the arc.
The Roos were the aggressors early in the third quarter as Demarius Cress opened the scoring with a 3-pointer that started an 11-0 run in the opening four minutes.
Melvin Anthony’s putback cut Shoemaker’s lead to 27-26 with 4:44 to play in the third, but Killeen wouldn’t come closer than that.
“In the first half, we looked like we had a carryover from the Harker Heights game, but in the third quarter we picked it up,” Killeen coach Reggie Huggins said. “I think I probably expired my guys because they were dead tired, but my guys kept fighting until the end.”
Johnson hit a jumper with 1:28 left in the third that was the first of six straight Grey Wolves baskets during a run of 17 straight Grey Wolves points.
Killeen’s offense struggled during the five-minute run. The Roos turned the ball over five times and missed two shots in their first seven possessions before Long drove for a basket that cut Shoemaker’s lead to 51-33 with 4:51 remaining.
“Their guys did a real good job rebounding the ball,” Huggins said. “They fought hard and just outmanned us at the basket. Our guys have got to understand that when the game is physical, you’ve got to get out there and be physical back.”
Playoff berths were on the line and the two teams played a physical game, especially inside. The teams combined for 36 personal fouls and each were whistled for one technical apiece.
Johnson began the game with his usual No. 15 jersey, but had to change to Nos. 24 and 14 because blood was spotted on his uniform.
Shoemaker goes for its seventh straight district win when it hosts Harker Heights on Friday while Killeen looks to rebound at home against Waco Midway.