Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

January 17, 2014

Cleburne ‘gets over the hump’ in 55-51 win over University

CLEBURNE — Cleburne Coach Ed King has talked all season about his Yellow Jackets inability to get over the hump. In what King deemed a must-win game against Waco University on Friday, the Jackets finally got over the hump in a 55-51 win over the Trojans.

Throughout the season, the Jackets have struggled winning close games and overcoming deficits, but Cleburne overcame a seven-point deficit, and, after nearly blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, they held on for a closely contested victory. The win snapped a three-game losing streak as Cleburne improved to 3-4 in District 8-4A play, keeping the Jackets’ playoff hopes alive.

“We finally got over the hump,” King said. “Hopefully the light that came on [in this game] stays on. I hate getting down because trying to get over that hump is hard. We haven’t done it all year. We didn’t execute well to start the game, and we got down. Then we fought to get back in it, and I guess it was a testament to our faith in each other to believe in one another, and we got over it. Those guys have had the experience now. They know what the feeling is like now.

“It’s a very important win. It’s important to end the first half of district with that win right there. Now we get a chance to start over from scratch in my opinion. We’ve watched enough film of the games we lost, that we know what to do to win those games in the second half. It’s a fresh start, and in my eyes, we’re 0-0 in district. Waco University knew what was at stake and they wanted it, too, but we just wanted it more.”

After playing to a 14-14 tie after the first quarter, Cleburne held a 19-15 lead midway through the second. But Waco University went on a 10-1 run to build a 25-20 lead. The Trojans extended that lead to 30-23, but the Jackets responded by scoring the final five points of the half to pull within 30-28.

University maintained its lead throughout the third quarter until the Jackets tied it at 39 on an Eli Upchurch 3 with 40 seconds remaining until the fourth quarter. After an Al Baylor steal, he scored on a layup and drew a foul with nine seconds left in the third. After hitting the free throw, the Jackets took a 43-39 lead into the final frame.

The Jackets took that momentum and built a 51-41 lead late in the game. But the same problems that have plagued Cleburne down the stretch all season temporarily reared its ugly head for a moment. University went on an 8-0 run to pull to within 51-49 with just over two minutes remaining. The Trojans took advantage of three Cleburne turnovers and a missed layup in that stretch.

Marc Murillo stopped the Jackets’ bleeding with a basket in the paint against a double team to put Cleburne up 53-49 with 2:07 left. The Trojans missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on the following possession, but Cleburne again turned the ball over. University cashed in on the turnover with a layup to bring it to 53-51 with 1:22 left.

The Jackets were then able to play their stall game for a while, and Baylor was fouled with 22 seconds left. The senior guard connected on two clutch free throws to extend the Jackets’ lead to 55-51.

“That was the biggest moment,” King said. “Al hitting those free throws was clutch. He had one or two of the turnovers down the stretch. They were running a 1-2-2, and I was calling our stall game and he didn’t recognize it. ... I think the turnovers down the stretch hurt, but the big free throws he made was important and offset those turnovers. We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball when we’re up. Don’t make turnovers, make sure we take good shots and hit free throws to close out games.”

Following Baylor’s clutch shots, the Trojans still had life with 22 seconds remaining. University missed a 3, but got an offensive rebound and was fouled on a 2-point attempt with seven seconds remaining. Both shots were missed, and the Trojans came up with another offensive rebound, but their desperation attempt was no good and Cleburne held on for the crucial win.

“I definitely think this win’s a momentum boost,” King said. “We can really build off of this more than any game we’ve played all season because it was the most important game of the year. This was a win we needed to keep the playoffs alive, and to just get over the hump — finally. We’re going to move full-steam ahead with this one. Hopefully we can embrace this feeling the whole second half [of district play]. I’m proud of them. Hopefully this win can be the difference maker in us getting a playoff spot.”

After University shot 47 percent from the floor in the first half, the Jackets held the Trojans to 25 percent shooting in the second half. University went 1-of-8 from 3 in the second half, and the Trojans hit 14-of-25 from the free-throw line. Cleburne, meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the floor and made 22-of-30 at the charity stripe.

The Jackets were led by Baylor’s 18 points, five assists and two steals. Murillo added 15 points and Ryan Kirk scored 10 points to go along with five rebounds.

Off the bench, Reed Donaldson added five points and Deion Clark scored four to go along with two rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The win pulled Cleburne (9-12, 3-4) to within one game of Crowley (4-3) for fourth place. Everman (7-0) beat Waco High (6-1) on Friday night in a battle for first place, and Burleson Centennial (5-2) beat Burleson (1-6) to remain in third place.

The Jackets are in action at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Waco High. Cleburne lost to the Lions, 64-55, in the district opener on Dec. 17.

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