The El Campo Ricebirds (7-3) could have folded down the stretch Saturday in Sweeny after the Caney Creek Panthers came from behind and took a lead late. The Ricebirds didn’t panic and pulled out the win over the 5A Panthers 40-38.
“We’re starting to learn how to play as a team,” sophomore guard Trinceton Foley said. “Last year we used to mess around and stuff, but we’re learning how to play together.”
The Ricebirds got off to a hot start, but their shooting went cold. Despite leading 22-13 mid-way through the second quarter and playing good defense, Caney Creek kept chipping away at the lead. El Campo missed layups and threes and the Panthers overtook them 32-30 in the fourth quarter.
“They couldn’t break the five-point barrier, but once they did we were chasing tail the rest of the way,” Ricebirds Coach Chris Burrow said.
With just over three minutes left to play, Caney Creek got another layup to go up four points. In years past, that lay up might have been a sign of the end for the Ricebirds. With only two points in the quarter, coming off a technical, El Campo came down the court and made a good pass and got their first field goal of the fourth.
Post Reagan Spenrath on the three-point line hit a cutting Foley for a layup to tighten the game.
El Campo’s defense forced a bad Caney Creek shot, but on their possession, turned the ball over and gave it right back to them. El Campo fouled, but Caney Creek only hit one free-thrown and had a three-point lead with 40 seconds left.
Foley came up big once again, coming around a screen set by Isaiah Anderson, he hit a turnaround three to tie the game.
“Kudos to the (two) sophomores, they lead the team today, (Anderson and Foley) were big,” Burrow said.
In overtime, Foley hit another three and Caney Creek answered with an and-one layup. With 20 seconds left in the game, Anderson drove the ball into the paint and finished over a crowd of Panther arms to take the final lead. The defense held for the final 12 seconds to give El Campo a thrilling win.
“Coach wanted a W today and that’s what we gave him,” Foley said. “We went harder (in the second half) everybody was tired, but we just pushed through.”
Spenrath only scored two points in the game, but his defense was big as he came up with nine rebounds and four blocks.
In the short three-game tournament, the Ricebirds dropped their first game to Sweeny but followed it up with a win over Danbury and their comeback against Caney Creek.