HOUSTON – When the bracket is made for next week’s UIL State Boys Basketball Tournament, there will not be a ranked team coming from Region III-5A.
With a pair of upsets on Friday night, Pflugerville Connally downing reigning state champion No. 8 Port Arthur Memorial and Manor beating No. 12 Fort Bend Hightower, it’ll be an all-Austin area regional final on Saturday.
“We saw them in a couple of different tournaments, they’re a good team,” Manor coach Anthony Swain said. “They made it to the regional quarterfinals last year, we didn’t make the playoffs last year, so we’re just excited to be here.
“Nobody expected us to make the playoffs, nobody expected us to be here.”
It is the first time since the 2006-2007 season that Connally has reached this round, while Manor is making only its second-ever appearance in a Regional Final and first since the 2003-2004 season.
Someone will break a drought on Saturday inside the M.O. Campbell Center.
Tipoff for the Region III-5A Final between Manor and Pflugerville Connally is set for 1 p.m.
Trailing by 11 to the defending state champions with just 5:57 left in the game, Pflugerville Connally didn’t flinch.
Instead, the Cougars pieced together a 13-2 run to send the Region III-5A Semifinal into overtime.
Once there, Connally senior guard Kylin Robinson took over, scoring all seven points and sending the Cougars to its first Regional Final in 12 years with a 53-47 victory over Port Arthur Memorial.
“It was a great experience, never really been a part of a big atmosphere,” Robinson said. “We never let up. We just came back and did our thing.”
Robinson finished with a team-high 19 points to lead the Cougars to their first regional final since the 2006-2007 season.
“God is good,” first-year Pflugerville Connally coach Bradley Washington said. “These guys bust their tail. They were down, I don’t know what it was but we scrapped back and we got down we manned a little, zoned a little, forced some turnover and hit some shot finally.”
Port Arthur Memorial finishes the year 27-8 overall.
After leading 26-23 at the half, Port Arthur Memorial was able to extend the lead to 37-31 by the arrival of the fourth quarter.
The play of Nathan Clover and Kenneth Lofton Jr., who both finished with 11 points, the Titans were able to extend the lead out to 44-33.
Fueled by Eddie Burgess and Tyrone Perry, who combined to score 12 of the Cougars 13 points in the game-tying run, Pflugerville Connally forced overtime, where Robinson dominated.
“He’s a 5-foot-9 that you wouldn’t recognize if you walked into the gym,” Washington said. “But until he puts some shoes on and goes and plays basketball.”
In the overtime period, Port Arthur Memorial was held to one point from the free throw line and didn’t hit one field goal.
In the final 9:57 of the game, Port Arthur Memorial was outscored 20-2 by Pflugerville Connally.
When last season ended, Manor coach Anthony Swain told his wife that she wouldn’t be able to sit home during the playoffs.
He and his team have lived up to that promise.
Quentin Middleton scored 23 points, Jamal Shead and Augustine Arroyo each chipped in 19 apiece and Manor upset No. 12 Fort Bend Hightower 85-77 in the Region III-5A Semifinal at the M.O. Campbell Center on Friday.
“I told my players that I planned on playing in the playoffs,” Swain said. “I didn’t tell them how far we were planning on going but I told them we would. They keep working and we keep upsetting people.”
Fort Bend Hightower finishes the season at 28-10 overall and reached the regional tournament for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
“I thought we missed a lot of easy layups early on,” Fort Bend Hightower coach Stephen Woods said. “I thought their team was a little more tougher than we were. They made free throws down the stretch and we missed free throws and easy baskets. That was the difference in the game.”
Manor heads to the Regional Final for only the second time in program history and the first since the 2003-2004 campaign.
The Mustangs are one win away from their first ever appearance in the UIL State Boys Basketball Tournament.
“It’s unreal,” Swain said. “If I told you we’d be here at this place ready to play one game to go to the state tournament, I don’t know if I’d be honest with you. I have a great group of guys that do exactly what I ask them to do as hard as they can to the best of their ability.”
Early on the shooting from beyond the arch was on fire for the Mustangs, while the Hurricanes couldn’t get shots to fall.
Manor raced out to an early lead and maintained it the rest of the way, leading 38-32 at the half and at the same time holding Hightower’s leading scorer Bryce Griggs to just two first-half points.
Griggs entered the game averaging 21 points per game.
“I always tell our guys defense travels and hopefully we can make some shots,” Swain said. “Our focus is defense, we work on shooting the ball, sometimes it’s not going to fall but it did tonight.”
Griggs did catch fire late, reaching a total of 13 points. Teammate Cameron Collins finished with a team-high 20 points, while Kevin McGaskey and Chris Felix each had 11 points apiece.
The shots continued to fall in the second half for the Mustangs to the eventual tune of nine three-pointers, including one from Anthony Joiner that came in an off-balanced attempt off just one foot.
Down the stretch, Manor went 9-for-10 from the free throw line to seal the win in the final 2:17 of the game.