HILLSBORO, Texas — It took only one 3-point quarter to propel the Mustangs to their sixth win of the season and the second of the Hillsboro High School Tournament on Friday at HHS Gymnasium.
The 3-point quarter, however, belonged to Marlin High School's Bulldogs, which scored eight total first-half points and committed 15 turnovers to help Life claim a 47-27 win.
Head Coach Eddie Berumen said it was Marlin's mistakes rather than Life's successes that led to the 20-point win.
"We just told them what they've been shooting the last couple of games," he said about the coaches halftime conversation with the team. "We've gone 6-for-28 on 3-point shots in the last three games. This was a game we should have won. You can't play the way we did against good teams, much less the ones in our district. If you play like that [against good teams], you'll lose most of the time."
Despite holding Marlin to 36 percent shooting — including 0-for-7 through the first 10 minutes — the Mustangs struggled from the field, using the size of 6-foot shooting guard Joshua Hannibal, 6-foot-5 center Joshua Sanders and 6-foot-6 point guard Justin Nimmer to create game-saving second-chance opportunities.
While Hannibal (6 rebs), Sanders, (7 rebs) and Nimmer (8 rebs) combined for 21 of Life's 28 rebounds, the team needed every offensive rebound and tip-in to win a game that was too close for comfort for Berumen and his staff. Hannibal, Nimmer, Sanders, Armani Holmes, Bryan Moreland, Masin Mathers, Daniel Nguyen, Tavon Spears and Noah Thomas combined for 11-for-28 (39 percent) shooting from the field and 5-for-19 (26 percent) from behind the 3-point line.
Nguyen added seven points, three assists and two steals and Moreland (9 pts) was the team's most accurate shooter, burying three of his four 3-point attempts.
Moreland also added two rebounds and a steal. Of the 15 turnovers created, 10 came via steals from Moreland, Nimmer, Nguyen and Sanders.
Berumen, who credited the full-court defense with crucial stops and fast break points, also noted his team's need to improve during the tournament and hinted to the difficulty and 4A postseason experience of the team's they will face in less than two weeks.
Life shares space with Alvarado, Glen Rose, Godley, Midlothian Heritage, Stephenville and Venus High Schools. Every school in the newly formed District 8-4A — save Godley — made the UIL playoffs and LHS, which was part of the 3A classification last year, and MHHS, which was the district champion last season, reached the regional final and area rounds in 2015.
"We've got some veterans, but we're still really young," he said. "These games are good for us because some of the kids with no playing experience are getting valuable time on the court and preparation for a tough district schedule. I hope tonight was an eye-opener that we need to have harder practices. We've got to get better and there isn't a lot of time left before the real games start. Once we get into district, there are no nights off. If you come out not ready to play and taking the first open shot, it's going to be a long night."
The Mustangs are scheduled to play Methodist Children's Home High School at noon and Hillsboro High School at 4 p.m. Saturday at HHS Gymnasium.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusMarionWNI.