Playing their fifth game in nine days the El Campo Ricebirds (7-3) came from behind to beat the (3A) East Bernard Brahmas (3-3) on the road Saturday afternoon.
The fresher Brahmas hit El Campo with a press and built a double-digit lead going into half-time. El Campo in the second half found their footing, pulled ahead and hung on to win 50-49.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” Ricebird coach Kevin Lewis said. “They fought hard down 15-14 points. It was a tough task but they came back and got the win. We’ve got some work to do. I’ve got to go back and watch film to try and get better. It was ugly, but I’ll take the win.”
The win was costly for El Campo. Senior guard Charles Shorter left the game in the second quarter with a lower leg injury. Shorter did not return. Lewis is hopeful Shorter will be back on the court during district play.
East Bernard hung with El Campo through the final whistle, but missed free-throws down the stretch ended up being the difference.
El Campo from the line finished 12 of 18, while East Bernard went 9 of 16, including missing the final free-throw which would have sent the game into overtime with seconds left.
East Bernard’s press forced El Campo to play quickly causing them to turn the ball over in the second quarter. The Brahma defense held El Campo to four points during the quarter jumping out to a 29-16 at the half.
El Campo slowed the pace of the game down once back on the court. The Ricebirds started to use their size, scoring on putbacks with the offense going through senior post Reagan Spenrath. The Ricebird post scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the second half.
El Campo mid-way through the third completed the come back pulling ahead 44-43.
The Ricebirds defense played lights out in the third quarter holding East Bernard to two points.
Ricebird junior point guard Isaiah Anderson came up big for El Campo, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
“Once we got a couple of steals and another couple of baskets, that’s what turned the game around,” Anderson said.
In the final eight minutes, Both teams continued to trade big baskets, with no one jumping out to more than a three-point lead.
East Bernard senior Andrew Schmidt, their go-to scorer, who had 10 first-half points, but was stymied, picking up five in the final two quarters.
With 1:36 left to play, the Brahmas led 49-47. Anderson attempted a quick corner three, but missed. Spenrath got the rebound and was fouled on the put-back. He went 1-2 at the line to pull within one point.
East Bernard got the ball low into the post, but the shot was a little off. Anderson got the rebound and raced in for a layup, but East Bernard was set and took the charge.
East Bernard again, got another good look at the basket, but the ball rolled off the rim. El Campo worked the ball into Spenrath who was fouled. At the line again, he hit both free-throws to re-take the lead.
The Brahmas again found bad luck, on a floater, the ball rimmed off. East Bernard got the rebound and was fouled on the put-back, However, the referees waved off the made shot.
With 12 seconds left, East Bernard missed the free-throw. El Campo got the rebound, but missed a wide-open layup. East Bernard got the rebound and with two seconds on the clock launched the ball from half-court, hitting the backboard, but missing the rim to end the game.
With the win, the Ricebirds stay red-hot grabbing their seventh straight win. El Campo, hours before the game against East Bernard, went on the road to beat the 2A state-ranked Schulenburg Shorthorns on the road.
El Campo’s game against Hempstead Friday at home was canceled.
The Ricebirds will be back in action Saturday on the road against the Columbia Roughnecks.