Out-sized like they have been most of their season, the Texas City Stings pounced on the limited opportunities given to them by the Angleton Wildcats and came away with a 71-61 win in Friday’s Region III-5A area round playoff game at Alvin High School.
“They realize that we’re not going to pass the eye test when we walk out, and they really take that to heart,” Texas City head coach Chris Mason said. “It’s amazing how close they are and how they believe in each other. They’ve been playing together for two to three years, and it’s showing.”
The Stings (31-6) move onto the regional quarterfinals for the first time since the 2002-03 season, where they will face No. 12 Fort Bend Hightower (27-9), which defeated No. 7 Barbers Hill, 53-46, on Thursday. The game will be 7 p.m. Monday at Pearland High School.
Texas City had big scoring runs late in each half that made the difference in the game. The Stings led by as much as 51-41 late in the third quarter, but Angleton utilized its size inside and knocked down some timely 3-pointers to rally for a 58-57 lead at the 2:51 mark of the fourth quarter.
But, that’s when Stings sharp-shooter Caden McKenzie drove a stake into the Wildcats’ heart.
“His teammates really look for him,” Mason said. “They look for him in practice, and sometimes we pass up layups to get him the ball. He always comes through for us in the clutch when we need him.”
McKenzie got a 9-0 run started with a 3-pointer, then an Angleton turnover led to a strong drive to the hoop by Phillip McDaniel on the other end. McKenzie then added some style points on the run by knocking down a 3-pointer from about 6 feet behind the line.
“We’re not very big, so we have to take advantage of our opportunities,” Mason said. “So, anytime a team misses a few shots and we can get a few turnovers, it just ignites us.”
Later, T.J. Fountain grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a lay-in to give Texas City a 70-59 lead with only 24.5 seconds left to play.
Angleton raced out to an 8-2 lead in the game, but later in the first quarter, leading 14-10, Texas City embarked on a 10-2 run highlighted by 3-pointers from McKenzie and Terrell Mitchell and a steal converted into a layup from Vito Vlahovec.
The first quarter ended with the two teams knotted, 20-20, and with Angleton leading 26-24 at the 3:41 mark of the second quarter, the Stings knocked down four consecutive 3-point attempts — coming from Mitchell, Dayton Booker and back-to-back from a distance from McKenzie — to get a 36-28 lead, and they led 38-29 at halftime.
Texas City’s prowess from beyond the arc (9-for-19 on 3-pointers) helped counter a significant rebounding edge for Angleton (35-22).
Nine different players scored at least two points for the Stings, led by McKenzie with 18 points (six 3-pointers) and Jacolby Belle with 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Booker and McDaniel added seven points apiece, and Fountain, Mitchell and Vlahovec logged six points each. Rounding out Texas City’s scoring was Drake Johnigan with four points and two points for Leon Joubert III.
Angleton was led by Ronnie Chaney with 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, Nathanael Rodriguez with 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, and Jason Williams with 14 points and four rebounds.