A good start, coupled with an excellent effort at the free throw line at the end, held off a Lampasas surge between those scenarios, and the Llano boys registered a 52-48 win, January 25. It’s the first district decision—after four straight losses—over the Badgers since the school was Class 3A two decades ago.
“We had two goals,” said Jackets’ head coach Aidan Callahan, “to win the turnover and offensive rebound battles; that was gigantic, and that was the game.”
Well, if it were, I’d have an awfully short story. Isaac Hutto’s 14 points in the first half led Llano to a 27-16 lead at intermission. The advantage grew to 34-21 on an Eli Tiffin three-point play with three minutes to go in the third quarter. Get on the road and beat the traffic home.
Right, and miss an exciting finish, which was no consolation to Lampasas’ Rob Shivers. “I didn’t think we competed well on the defensive end in the first three periods,” he acknowledged, and added, “We were not making shots early.”
That almost didn’t matter. Mason Murray and Shayne Cofield—sounds like a Hitchcock character in North by Northwest—each had seven points in the fourth, and the Badgers crawled to within 47-46 and 49-48 with a minute-four on the clock. The reason Llano still had “such a cushion” was Matthew Center was four-for-six from the foul line, and Hutto and Kohner Fogelberg were both two-for-two.
“We set team goals about 10 games ago,” declared Callahan, “and free throws was one of them. We started to work on it, and it shows.” 13-of-16 after intermission, 11-of-14 in the fourth quarter.
Chance Ware has become a superb ball handler along with Layton Rabb. Chance was four-for-four at the line down the stretch in the 59-50 win at Brownwood seven nights before.
He nailed two against Lampasas for a 51-48 lead with 59 seconds remaining.
When it was Badger ball, Cofield missed, and Hutto grabbed the rebound. “Blocking out is the name of the game,” he insisted. So is scoring, and Isaac had a game-high 20 points.
Lampasas had another chance—not the Ware variety—but Gary Spencer missed, and again Hutto, a 6’4” junior, collected the ball. With just over five seconds left, Ware returned to the charity stripe.
He had two shots; one good one would mean all parties had signed the papers on this thriller. Apparently he did not remember the line: “After Chance makes both…,” because, “I missed the first,” he reminded me, “and I knew I had to make the second.”
“…One more to ice it!! He got it!! He got it!!”
“I used my legs and followed through with the shot; it happened; it went in.”
Llano had its second triumph in three games in 8-AAA—and just as impressive—its 15th victory of the season. “That’s how Llano basketball should be,” Ware claimed.
“You’ve got to keep your composure when the lead dwindles,” Hutto noted.
“Isaac did a great job on the offensive board,” coach Cal praised, however, “We can’t give up points (32) in the second half like we did, but we’ll fix that.”
“Llano is a good team with good shooters and balance,”
“This is a fun group to coach,” Callahan offered. “I needed that; they’ve extended my career.”
I asked: “Does this win build confidence?”
“Confidence is no issue,” he responded. “There may have
been something to that early, but we’re not worrying about it now. When we go to work, we’re fine.”