BRECKENRIDGE – Brownwood’s bid for a third straight boys basketball bi-district championship was foiled by the Burkburnett Bulldogs, who for the third time in the last four seasons halted the Lions’ postseason run, 77-70, Monday night.
District 6-4A third seed Brownwood (13-10) and District 5-4A runner-up Burkburnett (16-9) were knotted at 47 heading into the fourth period, where the Bulldogs tallied 30 points – with 13 coming from senior guard Keland Page, who finished with 24 points overall.
“The biggest thing is it’s on us,” said Lions fifth-year head coach Nadir Dalleh. “We were down five I think, and the best news is we could fix that stuff. But I don’t know how many shots we missed around the rim. We had every shot we wanted, so that’s on us. We were throwing uncharacteristic turnovers we haven’t done in a while. It’s just frustrating but I couldn’t more proud, there isn’t a kid on that floor that didn’t leave it all out there.”
Down 35-30 at halftime, Brownwood began the second half on a 10-2 run and at the end of the third quarter the score was even.
With 3:27 to go, the Lions grabbed their final lead, 64-63, on a bucket in the paint by Luke Moss. Burkburnett answered with back-to-back three-pointers from Page and Carson Cremeens to possess a 69-64 edge with 2:59 left.
Brownwood’s Christian Kinzler answered with a traditional three-point play on the other end, bringing the Lions within 69-67 with 2:51 on the clock.
The next five Lions’ possessions, however, resulted in no points despite multiple shots at the bucket on four of the trips.
“We have to go up and score,” Dalleh said. “We put ourselves in position, that’s a credit to them, they worked their tails off down low, but we have to finish around that rim.”
Page then sank six free throws in a row, after Burkburnett made just one of its first nine from the line, to boost the lead to 77-67 with 14 seconds left.
Michael Felts hit a three-pointer for Brownwood before the final buzzer.
The Lions led by as many as four points, 59-55, with 5:52 left in the fourth following a three-pointer by Bryson Monroe. Shortly after, point guard Jakob Hataway began to suffer from leg cramps which altered Brownwood’s game plan down the stretch.
“When Hataway went down with those two cramps we had to switch some people into positions they’re not used to playing, but we still did OK,” Dalleh said. “But they hit a couple of shots, I think No. 3 (Page) hit about five straight on that far side, and that hurt us.”
Along with Page’s game-high 24 points, Jalen Hutchinson added 18 and T.J. Newton finished with 10 points for Burkburnett.
Monroe led the Lions with 20 points followed by Kinzler with 15, Hataway and Moss with 13 each, Felts with five and Zach Porter with four.
The Lions knocked down 16 of 22 free throws, but committed 20 turnovers while causing just eight.
“I love these kids,” Dalleh said. “There’s no quit in them, they want to win more than anything. I hate it for our seniors, they gave their all and it’s obvious. Burkburnett just hit more shots than we did.”