By Jordan Salas
The San Marcos Rattlers (35-3 overall, 9-1 district 27-6A) defeated the San Antonio Clark Cougars (14-18 overall, 10-6 district 28-6A) by a score of 50-48 in a nail-biter to secure the bi-district championship.
The Cougars began the game strong, particularly on defense, as they held the normally high-scoring Rattler offense to only seven points in the first quarter. On offense, the Cougars shared the ball and had four players score, ending the quarter with a two-point lead.
In the second quarter, the Rattlers found themselves good opportunities down low, but they were plagued by missed layups and turnovers. On the other end, the Cougars turned to their big man, 6-foot 9-inch senior Ethan Croley, who showed that he is not only a problem for defenses in the paint but also from beyond the arc. Croley splashed two well-contested three-pointers in the second quarter and led his team into halftime with 12 points and a 20-16 Cougar lead.
After the game, San Marcos head coach Dan Miller talked about his team’s struggles early on.
“They [Clark] played a 2-3 zone. They packed it in and forced us into some turnovers,” Miller said. “We didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball.”
The Rattlers started the second half with quick offensive plays, attempting to score fast and cut the Cougar lead. San Marcos got more of their players involved in the third quarter as well. Senior guard Jayven Cofer made a memorable play when he scored a tough left-handed layup over Clark’s big man, Croley. Senior guard for the Rattlers, Kaden Gumbs, came alive in the third, orchestrating his team and racking up nine third-quarter points which included two three-pointers.
Although the Rattlers were finding more offensive success, their defense needed to make a stand. Ending the third quarter, Clark junior guard Aiden Bolden hit a three-point dagger at the buzzer, giving his team a 38-30 lead and all the momentum heading into the final period. Up to this point, the Cougars had outscored the Rattlers in all three quarters, with Croley leading the way with 21 points.
The final period of play began, and it was an electric one. Both teams were battling strong, and the Rattlers were closing in on the Cougar lead. San Marcos intensely clamped down defensively on Clark, with the help of their thunderous fans in the stands.
Miller spoke about the support the Rattlers received from their fans and the spirit that brought the team to life.
“I just want to start by thanking the San Marcos community,” said Miller. “I thought the energy in the gym was electric from the San Marcos fans. They helped us in the second half.”
The Rattlers found themselves down by three points with about a minute and a half left in the contest when Cofer sunk a shot from downtown which tied the game.
Responding to the momentum, the Cougars got off a quick shot, but it was swatted away by the Rattlers.
With San Marcos now on offense and a tied game, senior forward Mateus Perkins was found open under the basket where he threw down a dunk to put his team up by two points.
Miller discussed his players’ abilities to make big plays in clutch situations, specifically the game-defining shot made by Cofer.
“Our guys found a way,” said Miller. “When the game is on the line, he’s [Cofer] not afraid to take the big shots, and tonight he took that big shot and made it.”
The Cougars still had an opportunity to get back in the game, but a defensive stop by the Rattlers and two clutch free throws by Perkins sealed the win for San Marcos.
The Ratters struggled most of the game but fought until the very end. When it mattered, they made shots, got defensive stops and ended the night with their 35th win of the season and a well-deserved bi-district championship.
You can catch round two of playoffs when the San Marcos Rattlers face the Westlake Chaparrals on Friday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. Follow KTSW Sports for updates on the upcoming Rattler basketball game, as well as other San Marcos sports news.
Featured Image from Beau Kelly
Written by: Amaya Lewis