After a first half of the district season in which the Belton Tigers at one point had the lone lead in District 12-6A, they entered Friday night’s contest at Shoemaker just trying to lock up a playoff berth.
A 34-point performance by TJ Johnson secured that berth as the Tigers rolled over the Grey Wolves 80-62 to capture the final playoff spot and advance to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
“Its great, I’ve been waiting a long time to get in the playoffs,” Johnson, a junior, said. “We all wanted it today and we were going to fight as long and as hard as it took to win it.”
Trailing by two after the first quarter, the Tigers (17-7, 8-5) went on a 9-2 run in the second to go up 25-20 and never looked back.
The Tigers led 28-23 at the half, and in the third quarter the Tigers expanded it to double digits with an 11-2 run to open the half. Kayden Downs began the run with a basket inside to start the quarter, and after Shoemaker’s Ti’ajae answered with a 3, Belton got hot.
Ben Jones hit a 3 from the right corner to put the Tigers up 33-26, then after a missed shot by the Grey Wolves, Trap Johnson put the Tigers up 36-26 with a 3 from the right wing, and TJ finished the run with a rebound on a miss by Owens and a coast-to-coast transition layup, drawing a foul and making a free throw to finish the run and give the Tigers a 39-26 lead.
“(Belton) came and played hard,” Shoemaker coach Jeremy Hensley said. “We just couldn’t match it. I love my kids, but we just didn’t come to finish it.”
The Grey Wolves (8-16, 6-8), who needed a win to have a shot at the final playoff spot, couldn’t catch up, though they did a make a brief run to cut the lead to seven, but trailed at the end of the third 48-39.
“We always feel like we are right there,” Hensley said “ We see the potential and where we are trying to go. It’s frustrating. You just hate to go out that way.”
The Tigers, who three games into district play were alone in first in the standings, had lost three of their last four entering the contest and needed a win Tuesday or in the district finale Friday against Harker Heights to secure a playoff berth.
“When the playoffs are on the line, you are going to get (a lot of emotion and intensity),” Belton coach Jason Fossett said. “We may not pass the eye test compared to other teams in this district, but what a group. They work hard every night and they deserve this.”
12-6A BOYS BASKETBALL
x-Harker Heights 10-3
Copperas Cove 4-9
x-clinched playoff spot
y-clinched district title
- Belton 80, Shoemaker 62
- No. 9 Ellison 56, Bryan 44
- Harker Heights 72, Copperas Cove 63
- Killeen 54, Temple 52