BELTON — Belton coach Jason Fossett knows his Tigers have had a season beyond even his expectations.
But when the final buzzer sounded on the final home game of the season Tuesday, the overachieving Tigers walked away knowing that the one goal they set out to achieve would not come to fruition.
The Waco Midway Panthers downed the Tigers 68-49 at Tiger Gym on Tuesday to eliminate the Tigers from postseason contention.
And while that end result wasn’t what the Tigers wanted, there isn’t much disappointment for the Tigers.
“Last year we won 12 games,” Fossett said. “This year we’ve won 21. Last year we won just four district games, right now we’ve won five with two more to go, and that’s with a litany of injuries and other issues.”
While the Tigers (21-13, 5-9) won’t be going to the playoffs, they are the first team since the late Ed Braeuer coached guys named Ramonce Taylor and Matt Braeuer to a 25-11 record in 2004, also the last season the Tigers won a playoff game.
“It’s awesome to look back and to say we were a part of that,” senior forward Tyson Pine said of the 20 wins.
On Tuesday, Pine led the Tigers with 16 points. The other senior suited up, Diego Santana added 11, the only two Tigers in double figures.
Belton’s third senior, Josh Rardin is one of a plethora of Tigers who was out with an injury.
“It means a lot to (Tyson),” Fossett said “You can tell he cares. We are going to miss him dearly. The seniors we have, I wish they were all coming back, because they are going to be guys you look back on and say they were guys who got this thing rolling,”
Pine got the Tigers rolling early against Midway, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring eight total points in the first three and a half minutes as Belton got out to a 14-6 lead.
But then the Panthers (25-9, 11-3), who sit in second place in district, came charging back, going on an 11-0 run to close the quarter and lead 17-14.
“They have a lot of shooters across the board,” Midway coach Matt Brown said. “They made 18 3s against us at our place, so I’m not going to lie, when they made those first ones today we were a little worried, because when you get hot like that it’s hard to stop.”
It wasn’t so much the Panthers being able to finally stop the Tigers as much as it was the Tigers, who had just eight players suited up, got worn down.
“They came out sluggish and we took advantage of that in the beginning,” Pine said.
“I think we just got ahead of ourselves and let it go a little bit.”
A basket by TJ Johnson, who finished with just six points, to start the second got the Tigers within 1, but that’s as close as they would be the rest of the night, trailing 33-20 at the half and 54-36 after three.
Midway’s Jordan Simmons led all players with 24 and Anthony Scott added 22.
“People forget TJ is just a sophomore,” Fossett said of his team’s leading scorer. “This is a young team, and we are getting better, TJ is a sophomore, (Bryan Henry) is a sophomore, Trent (West) is a sophomore and Seth (Morgan) is a sophomore. How many people lean on a sophomore as mush as we do? This team is getting better and we'll come in here tomorrow and get better again.”