WINNIE, Texas —
After digging themselves a 10-point fourth-quarter hole, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs battled all the way back to within two points with 0:30 left but it was not quite enough as the LaMarque Cougars escaped with a 52-47 Class 3A Region III area round playoff win at East Chambers High School Friday night.
The Cougars (24-10), 24-3A champions, led by as much as 43-33 with 6:39 left before the Mustangs (22-11) made a superb comeback attempt that just fell short.
“Give LaMarque credit, they have a good club,” said Mustang coach Jason Wilkins. “They have a senior-oriented team, one that’s been through some big-time games. We’ve still got a pretty young team full of juniors and sophomores. I Can’t use that as an excuse those. We wanted to make a deeper run and we’re disappointed. We had a great year though and we have a lot to look forward too next year.”
Junior Laquarious Paige led the Mustangs with 14 points, eight coming in the first period and six in the fourth. He also added seven rebounds.
Chase Rutledge scored 11 points for WO-S and Brandon Joubert contributed 10. Travon Blanchard led the Mustangs with nine rebounds while Deionte Thompson snagged five.
Demun Mercer paced the Cougars with a big double-double as he led the way with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
LaMarque guard Paris Clayton scored 13 points. Post Lawrence Montegut tallied 14 points and grabbed five boards while Kwenten Griffin also had five rebounds.
A layup by Jequan Millsap gave the Cougars the 43-33 lead with 6:39 left and the Mustangs started whittling away at the lead.
Paige, who had been quite since the first period, hit back-to-back running jumpers to trim the gap to 43-37 with 3:38 left.
Mustang post Tyrant Thompson promptly converted back-to-back buckets inside to make it 43-39 with 2:52 left.
The Cougars converted three out of four free-throws to go up 46-41 with 1:44 on the clock.
Paige cut it to 46-43 with two free-throws but Montegut made it 48-43 with a move in the paint with 1:22 left.
Rutledge buried a short jumper to trim the margin to three with 1:18 on the clock. The Cougars then just converted one of four free-throws to lead only 49-45 with 0:57 remaining.
Joubert drew the Mustangs within two with a nice drive and layup with 0:30 left. On LaMarque’s next possession, Tyrant Thompson stole the ball and Paige missed a runner in the paint to tie it with 0:17 left.
Mercer made 1-of-2 from the foul line to put LaMarque up 50-47 with 0:16 left. The Mustangs tried to tie it but a Rutledge three-point attempt grazed off the rim. Montegut was fouled and sealed the contest by making both foul shots with 0:04 left.
“It was a great effort by the kids to comeback like they did,” said Wilkins. “That’s one thing that you can never fault with this group, they battle to the end. They have great tenacity and you gotta love that.”
The Mustangs were on fire early, taking a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Paige scored eight quick points, including two three-pointers and a dunk.
WO-S led by as much as 20-13 early in the second but the Cougars closed out the half with a 15-3 spurt as they limited the Mustangs to just one field goal in the quarter to grab a 28-23 lead at intermission.
“We were really cold in those middle two quarters, especially the second,” said Wilkins. “LaMarque, they fly around on defense, but so did we.”
Clayton found his shooting stroke in the second period, scoring eight points, including two three-pointers while Mercer scored six points as well.
LaMarque led by as much as 34-25 in the third period but the Mustangs erupted on a 9-0 spurt capped by a Rutledge three-pointer that trimmed the gap to 34-33. However, the Cougars scored the last three points to lead 37-33 heading to the fourth.
The Cougars finished with a 33-28 rebounding edge.
WO-S forced the Cougars into 22 turnovers. The Mustangs committed 19 of their own.
WO-S finished 11-of-18 from the free-throw line while the Cougars made 12-of-22.