San Antonio, TX-
Heading into the final eight minutes on Tuesday evening, the Cole Cougars had managed to lead at the end of all three quarters, but the Judson Rockets where certainly within striking distance and had chipped away at a double digit lead, trailing 47-42 entering the 4th quarter.
After an Elijah Favela corner three-pointer, and a tough bucket down low by football standout Johnny Bowens, Judson was on verge of climbing in front, trailing 50-49. Anariss Brandon did the Rockets the favor of sinking a trey and Judson would take the lead 52-50, with 5:20 to go in the contest. The game would be back and forth the rest of the way.
Unsigned senior guard, Trey Blackmore, would rise to the occasion as he so often does for the 3A defending State Champs, and calmly elevated as he got to the right elbow and swished the jumper, making it 56 all, with 2:41 to play.
Made and missed free throws down the stretch for both teams played a huge role in the outcome. It would put Judson in front 60-58, but Silas Livingston would use his quickness, going to the left hand, get all the way to the block, and draw contact from a falling defender, scoop it in and connect on the free throw to give the Cougars a 61-60 edge with just over a minute to play.
Judson would again respond and counter with a 62-61 lead, and only to see Livingston once again, this time with a three pointer from straight on, to give Cole a 64-42 advantage with only 22 secs to play. Cole would have a chance to ice the game, but multiple missed free throws left the door open for Judson.
As you would expect, as the program they are, Judson only knows how to respond. Getting the ball on the left block to 6’5” big man Johnny Bowens, as he went to work putting it in with the chance at a three-point play, the old fashioned away.
Bowens would miss the FT, and the board would bounce to a Cole player and down the left side of the floor the ball would be pushed. Blackmore got a clean look, but from 30 feet out, his shot hit the back of the rim, resulting in overtime.
During the four-minute extra session, both teams traded blows, the atmosphere all around was one of a an intense playoff game, and neither team was flinching.
With one minute to play in OT, senior Christian Pillow would get great position on the right block, turn and put in a one-hander with soft touch, giving Judson the 70-69 lead with 1:02 to play. As was the case all night, Blackmore would answer right back for the Cougs, attacking the middle of the paint, stopping, and using his lethal mid-range game and rising above the defense for a soft free throw line jumper to make it 71-70 Cole.
Judson would tie the contest with a free throw, but Blackmore would respond drawing contact and also getting his shot at the line. He’d make 1 of 2 with 6.3 seconds remaining, and that would be enough for Cole to hang on for the 72-71 win, in overtime, over a very stout Judson team.
Blackmore finished with 30 points for the contest, while the Angelo State University Coaching staff looked on at his every move. Teammate and UIW signee Silas Livingston dropped 26 in the win, as the 1-2 combo set the pace for the Cougars.
Just as important for Cole, were the unsung players who muscled and battled all night with bigger, longer, Judson interior. Adreeaell “Dre-Ray” Ray plays extremely physical and with reckless abandon. He notched 11pts and 10 boards. Marcel Hutcherson (6’5”) and Kenny Atunrase (6’4”) went toe to toe with Judson’s bigs in Bowens and Pillow, providing some epic battles on the block and in the paint.
This was Cole’s seventh win on the season over a 6A program, pushing their overall record to 9-6 as they prepare for their 3A district schedule in early January, currently holding the #2 State Ranking in 3A.
In the loss, Judson falls to 9-3, as the Rockets were led by 6’5” senior Christian Pillow, who logged a double-double (unofficially) with a team high 20 points and 10 boards. A&M Commerce signee Anariss Brandon added 19 points for Judson including a highlight reel dunk early on.
The Rockets have proved during their non-district slate that they will be a team to have eyes on in Region IV. Add to the mix the outside shooting of Donovan Gomez and Mason Wallace, the Rockets will not be an easy out for anyone.
Both teams prepare for two more weeks of non-district match-ups, before tightening down for district play.