AUSTIN — There may have been some confusion as to what a three-pointer was versus a two-pointer, but there’s no argument that at the end of the game, Waelder won.
The official scorekeeper had the Wildcats winning the Region IV-1A semifinal game 52-43 against the Oakwood Panthers, reaching the Region IV-1A finals for the second time in their five-year stretch of making it to the regional tournament.
Scoring discrepancies aside, it was Waelder’s defense as well as their 22-9 third quarter burst that helped knocked off Oakwood.
“It was like the game against Dime Box,” Waelder Head Coach Jacob Garcia said. “[Oakwood is] athletic like Dime Box, and they made some tough shots in the first half. We played some good defense, but they made some shots. In the second half, they missed those shots and we made the shots we were missing in the first half. That’s the way it goes sometimes. You make shots, you miss shots. And we were on the better end of making shots.”
The Wildcats were up 16-12 before giving up an 11-0 run to end the half down seven. But after the halftime break, Waelder went on a 9-0 run themselves, with senior Isaiah Ewing the hero of the quarter, scoring six points according to the scorekeeper (a three-pointer may have been miscounted as a two-pointer).
“Big Z, that’s what we call him,” Garcia said of Ewing, “he came through on defense. He was the man today. He’s our senior. He did everything. On offense he made his shots. He did everything I asked of him. He played hard.”
Ewing, the lone senior of the eight-man team, finished with 11 points in the game. His main assignment was to guard Oakwood’s Key Davis, who scored 12 points in the first half but was limited to five points in the second.
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats would convert 9-of-19 free throws, outscoring Oakwood 14-11 to finish the game with the nine-point win.
The win propels Waelder to the Region IV-1A finals, a spot they were in two season ago. This will be the furthest the Wildcats have reached in the state tournament since the 2010-11 season when Waelder lost to the eventual state champions Paducah in the semifinals game.
Garcia claims the key to getting back to the tournament is through Wildcat basketball, defense and hustle.
“Whenever we’re this far, anything can happen. It’s basketball,” he said. “Any team can be beat any given night. We’ll probably be the underdog next [game]. It’s going to take defense and some hard work.”
Waelder takes on Leggett on Saturday, March 3, back at the Burger Athletic Center in a rematch from last season’s overtime Region IV-1A quarterfinals. The Wildcats have bested Leggett two seasons in a row and look to do it for the third time with tipoff set for noon.