The No. 14 ranked Sulphur Springs Wildcats traveled to Longview Friday, looking to bounce back into the win column after a loss earlier in the week to Hallsville. The Wildcats entered the day with a record of 18-8 and a district record of 2-1.
Sulphur Springs got off to a very hot start, as they tend to do, scoring the first seven points of the game. Their 7-0 run came thanks to a layup and a dunk from Parker Whisenhunt, as well as a 3-pointer by Branson Lynn.
Lynn and Whisenhunt continued their strong play throughout the rest of the frame, as they each knocked down one more 3-pointer. The offense slowed down a bit in the back half of the quarter, but they still stayed in control, leading 18-11 entering the second frame.
Sulphur Springs went very cold for most of the second quarter and even allowed Longview to take the lead with 2:33 left in the half. The Wildcats, who once led by nine points, found themselves down by three points, before Lynn hit a huge step-back 3-pointer in the final seconds to tie things up at 31-31.
The third quarter was another slow frame for the Wildcats, as they were never able to create any separation from the Lobos. Sulphur Springs played from behind for the entire frame, although they were never down by more than one score. Yet another 3-pointer from Lynn tied things up late in the frame at 44-44, but Longview was able to score once more, taking a two-point lead into the final frame.
With time working against them, the Wildcats fought hard in the final quarter, desperately looking to avoid a second consecutive loss. With 1:52 left to play, junior Kordrick Turner went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.
Turner made the first attempt, tying the game at 54-54. The big man missed the second free throw, but senior Justin Haire swooped in a grabbed the offensive rebound, putting it back up at giving the Wildcats a two-point lead.
Sulphur Springs went down on the other end and forced a huge stop, getting the rebound and calling a timeout with exactly one minute left. The Wildcats inbounded to Turner, who found a wide open Haire cutting back door.
The senior big man got the pass and threw down a huge two-hand slam, putting the Wildcats ahead by four points with less than a minute to go. Longview was far from out of it, however, as they went down a drained a huge 3-pointer with 22.1 seconds left.
Knowing Longview would foul, Sulphur Springs got the ball in the hands of Haire, who knocked down both of his free throw attempts. Haire followed it with another pair of free throws a few moments later, leading the Wildcats to a 62-57 road victory.
Haire was the leading scorer for the Wildcats, finishing with 19 points, 12 of which came during the second half. “I was just taking what the defense was giving me,” Haire said about his late scoring.
“But I knew in that moment that Branson and Caleb were keeping us in the game in the beginning with their 3’s,” Haire added. “So I knew that hey, instead of having to rely on them the entire game and having to put the game on them, me and Kordrick are going to help relieve them. So me and Kordrick were hustling our butts off down low, trying to get as much as we could so it would open them up if we had to kick it out, so that’s how it went, we just hustled and got our buckets.”
Just behind Haire was Lynn, who had 15 points on the night. All 15 of his points came via the 3-pointer, as he was able to knock down five of them in the outing.
“I felt it coming into the game,” Lynn said about his strong shooting night. “In warmups I was hitting and making my shots.” Lynn also spoke about getting in extra work during the week, after not making a single 3-pointer in their loss to Hallsville.
“That was a hard loss for us. It was mainly on my mind the most because I didn’t make a single 3, so after that I just got in the gym, kept shooting and kept shooting, kept putting shots up and came out here and we did our thing.”
Caleb Alexander was the third Wildcat to finish in double-digits, adding 11 points of his own. Alexander, who is usually a strong 3-point shooter, did a majority of his scoring inside the 3-point line, with eight of his points coming on 2-point attempts or free throws.
The other two scorers for Sulphur Springs were Whisenhunt and Turner, who had nine points and eight points respectively. Seven of Whisenhunt’s nine points came during the first half.
After the game head coach Brandon Shaver spoke about the game, including the hot start the team got off to. “That’s what we talked about, we knew the gym wasn’t going to be like it is at home, so that’s one of the things we talked about, bring your own energy.”
“Even from the bench, even the JV and freshman guys behind us, it helps when they’re helping bring energy from that side too.”
Shaver also spoke about the lull his team had during the second and third quarters, but how his team was able to battle back and pull out the win anyway. “I think they did a really good job of getting to the fourth quarter, playing what we wanted to be.”
“Defensively I don’t think we played as well as we normally have,” Shaver added. “But we played well enough to get the win so that’s really good for us.”
The win improves the Wildcats record to 19-8 on the year and makes them 3-1 in district play. Sulphur Springs will be on the road again Tuesday against a tough Mount Pleasant team at 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats return home again Friday, to host Texas High. Coverage of their Tuesday game against Mount Pleasant will be published on Front Porch News, and Friday’s home game against Texas High will be broadcast live by Tyler Lennon and Grayson McClure on the Chad’s Media Youtube account.