By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
It's not how you start, it's how you finish, Temple coach Tim Thomas said after his Wildcats beat Shoemaker 67-58 Friday night and clinched their first playoff berth since 2005.
With just two nondistrict losses and a newly acquired state ranking (No. 23), the Wildcats (24-6, 9-4 12-5A) opened their District 12-5A schedule with high expectations before losing three of their first four games. They've now won six straight and play at A&M Consolidated Tuesday night for the district's second seed.
"We need to improve as we go along and we want to be playing our best basketball at this time of the year," Thomas said. "... I think we're peaking at the right time."
The Grey Wolves peaked too early.
Shoemaker (17-16, 6-7) opened 12-5A with five wins in its first seven games, including four straight, but the Grey Wolves have lost three straight and five of their last six.
"I thought against Ellison (an overtime loss Tuesday) was one of our best performances of the year, I thought (Friday) was one our worst performances of the year," said Shoemaker coach Marc Minatrea.
And it was bad timing for that game to happen.
The Grey Wolves could've put themselves in the playoff mix with wins over Temple and Harker Heights on Tuesday but was eliminated with the loss and clinched the final berth for Ellison, which lost at A&M Consolidated Friday.
Temple's Erik Valdez scored 18 and Stacey Dodd added 12. Valdez scored nine in the third quarter including five in a 30-second span that gave Temple its second lead of the game, 35-33, with a little more than three minutes left in the period.
Jade Allen scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter but was held to just one made free throw in the second and third quarters. A.J. McDonald scored 12 in the fourth quarter to lead the Grey Wolves back from an eight-point deficit and Anthony Gonzales scored 13.
Shoemaker led 17-11 after the first quarter but was out-rebounded 23-10 in the final three quarters.
"That was the adjustment at halftime," Thomas said. "We basically talked about two things: Allen's getting to the paint basically whenever he wants to and getting to the free-throw line, and that we were giving up more offensive rebounds in that first half than we did the whole last ballgame that we played."
Temple, which rallied from seven- and nine-point deficits in the first half, led by eight after a Chris Randle dunk with 6½ minutes left, but Allen and McDonald pulled the Grey Wolves to one, 45-44, with 5:28 left after four free throws from Allen, who hit 10 of 13 from the line in the game, and a three-point play from McDonald.
McDonald tied the game at 46 with 4:21 left, but Temple's Donald Robinson and Donovan Shumpert scored back-to-back layups to put the Wildcats up for the last time.
"I can't coach effort, I can't coach kids to not get loose balls taken from them. I can't coach kids to not go get loose balls. We didn't block out, we didn't any loose balls," Minatrea said. "Temple beat us to everything."
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.