It’s been a decade-plus since the El Campo Ricebirds beat the Wharton Runnin’ Tigers in basketball.
The Ricebirds fell once again Tuesday night at Tiger Gym 58-57, but this was the closest game between the two schools in the last decade.
El Campo (13-8, 4-3) attacked the glass and built an eight-point lead on the Runnin’ Tigers (10-4, 4-3) as they entered the fourth quarter.
Wharton’s press came out strong in the fourth quarter forcing the Ricebirds into turnovers, which helped them come back and ultimately pull ahead. However, El Campo still had a shot to tie the game with 14 seconds left in the game.
“We were up eight, we should have won and closed the game out,” El Campo coach Kevin Lewis said. “They made plays down the stretch, they made big shots and we didn’t, you’ve got to tip your hat to them.”
Trailing 58-55, El Campo, after a timeout, brought the ball in.
The Ricebirds made a couple of hand-offs at the top of the three-point line to try and get some space, but Wharton’s defenders played tight coverage.
El Campo made a pass to the corner for a three but had to shoot over Wharton senior Fred Jones’ outstretched hands.
The three-point attempt was short but caught by Ricebirds junior forward Trinceton Foley, who laid the ball in for two points as time expired.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Jones said. “They had their good run (early) and towards the end, we had our good run.”
In the fourth quarter, Jones scored 11 of his 14 points as the Runnin’ Tigers outscored El Campo 20-11.
Wharton’s offense got contributions from former El Campo Middle School Ricebird, now Runnin’ Tiger freshman Jerrell Barron Jr. who made four threes, scoring 12 points.
El Campo’s sophomore Rueben Owens II and junior Triceton Foley scored 15 points each.
The win for Wharton drops El Campo from being alone in second place to a three-way tie between the two and Navasota for the final three spots. However, because of Wharton’s two wins over El Campo, if they finish tied with the same record, the Runnin’ Tigers will have the higher playoff seed.
Sealy is only one game out of jumping into the playoff mix and potentially dropping one of the three out of the playoffs.
Royal leads the district with a 6-1 record followed Wharton 4-3, El Campo 4-3, Navasota 4-3, Sealy 3-4 and Bellville 0-7.