Two teams, two nearly identical scores in head-to-head games.
Just like they did in their first meeting, Clear Lake and Dickinson went nose-to-nose for four quarters on Friday night.
After the Gators won 74-68 in January, it was the Falcons which didn’t blink in key moments as coach Tommy Penders’ squad handed the hosts their first District 24-6A loss of the season by a 74-69 count.
“It was the exact same game the last time, but it flipped around,” said Penders, whose club pulled to within a game of the Gators at 9-2 in the district. Dickinson stands at 10-1.
A Clear Lake win over Alvin and Clear Creek home triumph over Dickinson, both in Tuesday games, would leave the district in a three-way tie. A year ago, Clear Lake and Dickinson shared the 24-6A title.
“Ultimately, I don’t know how much the game will mean. It’s a good playoff warmup in the district,” said Penders. “We knew to win the game, we had to go at them. The first game, I thought we were a tad cautious. This time I thought we were much more forceful on both ends.”
Clear Lake drove hard at Dickinson and used its scoring balance to offset a monster 37-point effort by Gator standout Tramon Mark.
Jaja Sanni poured in 16 of his team-high 23 points in the second half for the Falcons, while Jake Mather added 14 of his 22 points in the final two quarters.
When Clear Lake went up 24-18 in the second quarter, Mark turned the game around with a blinding offensive display. The junior scored 21 of the next 23 Dickinson points, including a flying dunk and three-point play, as the Gators took a 41-32 lead early in the second half.
Mark, though, made only two buckets in the game’s last 13 minutes as Sanni, Mather and center John Argue took over for the Falcons. Argue, saddled with foul troubles, added a big second half with 13 of his 16 points.
Dickinson took its final lead, 56-55, with six minutes to go before Clear Lake ran off a 19-13 run to close the contest. Sanni and Mather combined to drop in 12 of Clear Lake’s last 14 points.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Did we prepare better than Clear Lake to win this game?’” said Gator coach Jason Wilson, who had just one other double-figure scorer in Deuce Guidry’s 11. “Distractions … all of those things matter. This is a great learning experience for us. They did a great job … they wanted it more.
“The plays that needed to be made down the stretch, they made it because they wanted it more. We didn’t want it more.”