SHINER — The Shiner St. Paul Cardinals never gave up the lead after scoring an early bucket nine seconds into the game. However, a tense two minutes of outstanding by Waco Live Oak at the end of the first half as well as a scoring burst midway through the fourth quarter gave the Cardinals some trouble. A 20-point lead entering the fourth quarter quickly turned into a 10-point lead before St. Paul was able to convert on free throws and ultimately knock off the visiting Falcons 72-57 to advance to the TAPPS 2A regional finals.
“We came out and took care of business our first [playoff game],” senior guard River Haynes said. “We got to get ready for [Huntsville] Alpha Omega [next].”
The Cardinals overwhelmed Live Oak in the first quarter, coming out to a 13-0 run before Live Oak scored their first basket of the night with 1:46 left in the period. St. Paul ended the quarter up 19-2.
Up 27-10 late in the second, Live Oak went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 10 to end the half. With key starters in early foul trouble to start the second half, freshman guard Kai Giese scored the first 12 points for St. Paul as the team increased their lead back up to 20 by the end of the quarter.
“Joseph [Natal] and River had foul trouble,” the freshman noted, “so I had to step up.”
Giese scored 15 of the team’s 19 points in the third quarter. He ended his night with 22 points.
Up 52-32 with 6:25 left in the fourth, Live Oak started to press and convert on their three point attempts. The Falcons went on a 12-2 run in the next 67 seconds of game clock, coming within just 10 points with over five minutes left in the game. Instead of calling a timeout, the Cardinals pressed through and were able to lock down Live Oak on defense, while converting free throws on the offensive side.
“[We hustled] back on defense,” Haynes explained. “Just getting stops, blocked down and getting boards.”
The Cardinals also used their speed late in the game to frustrate the Falcons, in an attempt to hide their weaknesses with height.
“We got to move because we’re pretty small, so that plays a big role,” Haynes said. “We got to keep opening up our shots.”
St. Paul went 13-of-19 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to put away the Falcons. In total, they shot 29-of-39 from the free-throw line.
The Cardinals now reach the regional finals in the TAPPS 2A bracket. They will take on Huntsville Alpha Omega in Brookshire at Royal High School on Friday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m.