RED OAK – A trio of underclassmen might have grabbed the spotlight but an unheralded senior put them in position to do so.
Nic Giron came off the bench for his final home game to contribute six points, three of which came at the turning point of the fourth period, helping Red Oak knock off Terrell 81-65 in the regular season finale. The Hawks locked up their second straight 20-win season and are the No. 3 seed from District 15-4A. The team will face Bastrop in bi-district next week.
“I didn’t want to go in with a two-game losing streak. It had no impact on the playoffs (standings) or anything at all but still it’s your last game at home, you want to win,” coach Preston Foster said. “You want to feel good going into the playoffs. It was big from that standpoint.”
Brandon Brady scored a game-high 24 while Jeremiah Gaines and Claude Person each had 16. All that was big but when the Hawks needed a game-changing play, they turned to a senior who was happy to oblige.
After trailing 33-29 at the half, Red Oak managed to keep things close in the third and took a 54-50 lead into the fourth. Terrell responded by going on a 7-0 run to take a 59-57 lead. With the Tigers up 61-59, Gaines stepped to the line but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Giron used his vertical leaping and length to snare the rebound and was fouled. Two free throws later, the game was tied at 61.
Brady followed that sequence up with a bank shot to give the team a 63-62 lead and on the ensuing inbounds Giron came up with the steal. He was fouled going up for the shot and hit one of his two free throws to give the team a 64-62 lead. Red Oak was tied once more but never trailed again.
“I knew that I had a big athlete behind me and I didn’t want him to smash me or nothing so I tried to just put it up on the rim because I knew he was going to foul me,” Giron said. “We were down in the second half so we knew we had to come out with some intensity and play defense and make some free throws so that’s what we did.”
Nine free throws and some strong defense helped Red Oak close the game on a 13-0 run.
Brady got the team off to a strong start in the first half, scoring nine points to start the game. Down 26-18, the Hawks got a surprise lift from another unsung senior as Tyler Bishop came off the bench to rattle home a 3-pointer and cut the lead to five. If not for a heave by Terrell at the halftime buzzer, Red Oak would have only been down one at the half thanks in large part to that shot.
While Brady remained steady, Gaines picked up his offensive pace in the last 16 minutes. The sophomore was held to just two points in the first half but exploded with eight in the third. Giron had helped put the Hawks up for good but Gaines made sure to put an end to any comeback hope when he scored four points in a matter of seconds, hitting four free throws and getting a steal to put the Hawks up 72-65.
“I don’t know what it is but I always get off to a slow start and my teammates helped me get involved in the game, encouraged me and they helped me get back in the game,” Gaines said.
Gaines and Brady combined for eight free throws and 10 of the team’s 13 points in that 13-0 run to close game. The duo also played a key role in the defense. Red Oak held Terrell in-check with three turnovers, three field goal misses and three free throw misses in the final 2:35.
“Defense just creates offense. When we get our defense going we’re a force to be reckoned with,” Brady said.
The win gives Red Oak four wins in its last five games, with the lone loss coming to district champion Ennis on a buzzer beater over the weekend. The win was also a good confidence booster considering the team’s tendencies at home against district foes.
In eight home district games this season, the Hawks were 4-4 but were 7-1 on the road with the lone loss coming to Ennis. Getting the home court monkey off their back was one last boost heading into the postseason.
“It was good not only to get the seniors out on a good note but all the games we’ve lost in district have been at home with the exception of Ennis,” Gaines said. “We wanted to get them off that bad note and start the playoffs hitting the ground running.”
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