FALLS CITY — The playoff rust Waelder head coach Jacob Garcia spoke of from Tuesday’s contest was shaken off Thursday night when the Wildcats survived a late push by the McMullen County Cowboys to advance to the Region IV-1A quarterfinals with a 52-49 victory in Falls City.
Justin Schilhab had a turn-around game, scoring 19 points, nine of which in the second quarter where Waelder outscored McMullen County 18-2. The senior guard scored just four points in Tuesday’s bi-district round.
“He promised me after that game, ‘I promise coach it ain’t going to be like that next time,’” Garcia said. “He came through on his promise, he shot the ball. I told him the last couple of days, basketball you can’t force things, let the game come to you. When you’re open, you shoot, when you’re not, you pass, basketball is simple.”
Down 19-18, Schilhab made three straight threes to give the Wildcats a spark on offense. Isaiah Miller was also a key contributor with a hand in all of the team’s first quarter points, whether it was through assists or made shots by the sophomore Wildcat.
“Isaiah, he’s a sophomore but he plays like a senior,” Garcia explained. “He comes through clutch, he’s so athletic, it’s crazy. He’s our MVP for sure. He helps us a lot whenever we had guys go down because of discipline issues, he was a guy that filled that role. He’s a big man, he’s a point guard, he’s a post, he’s everything.”
Miller ended the night with 13 points.
Defensively, the Wildcats allowed just two points in the second quarter, but Garcia was quick to note that the team “gave up a lot of easy points.”
Waelder would give up 15 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth.
The second-year head coach touted the team’s composure late in the game as a reason for surviving McMullen County’s shooting in the fourth quarter.
“In a game like that, anything can happen,” Garcia said. “We traveled, they got the ‘and-one’ and missed [a game-tying free throw]. I don’t really know what the key [of the game was], just free throws there at the end, we made them. If we would have missed them, we could have lost.”
Up 48-45 with 46.8 seconds left, Jr. Satterwhite was fouled and awarded two free throws. Satterwhite missed both. McMullen County cut it to 48-47 before Satterwhite was fouled again. This time, he made the two free throws. Seconds later, after a failed McMullen County “and-one” situation, he made two more, giving the Wildcats the 52-49 victory.
Satterwhite finished with 10 points, scoring eight in the fourth quarter.
Waelder now advances to the Region IV-1A quarterfinals, matching up against their district rivals, the Moulton Bobkatz. Weeks ago, Garcia explained that this was the path the Wildcats wanted to take in order to redeem their third-place finish in District 30-1A.
“We’re eyeing that third round because we just want to be fueled,” Garcia said in early February. “I think this is the perfect game to be fueled.”
The Waelder head coach reiterated that point Thursday night, saying Moulton was who the Wildcats wanted to face off in the third round.
“We lost twice this year,” Garcia explained. “It’s a rivalry, it’s my second year in the rivalry, I can feel the bad blood, per say. The boys, they’ve been wanting it, I’ve been wanting it. It wouldn’t be sweet if we didn’t go through Moulton, just like we went through Dime Box last year.”
Moulton won 55-37 in their first district meeting on Jan. 4, though the Wildcats suited up just six players that game. Weeks later, the Wildcats lost 50-45 in overtime at home, though this time it was without Miller in the lineup.
“First game we didn’t have everybody, second game we were missing Isaiah,” Garcia said. “This third game we’re going to have everybody. We’ll see what happens. With Moulton, they’re a well-coached team. It’s just going to come down to who wants it more.”
The rivals face off on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Bastrop High School, with tipoff scheduled at 6:30 p.m.