LONE GROVE — What started out as a sprint, quickly became a grueling marathon in the Longhorn Invitational boys championship game Saturday night.
Plainview and Washington traded dagger after dagger. And after three nights, and 12 quarters of basketball, neither team was ready to give up their claim on the tournament title.
As the game went into overtime, stretching into the late hours of the night, the game got personal.
During game breaks, Plainview cheerleaders and a group of rabid Washington students tried to one up each other with dueling tumbling passes. Fans and parents, each donning similar shades of red, got chippy as they lived and died on each possession.
Each bucket was a triumph. Each stop was monumental.
A pair of free throws to put Plainview ahead with the clock flashing zeroes at the end of the first overtime clanked off the rim.
One overtime would not be enough.
This game, these teams deserved more.
Washington took a 70-69 lead to start the second overtime, but once again the Indians stormed back as Plainview’s Brock Parham pulled up for a three. Splash.
The Warriors, like they had all night, tied the game at 72-72 on the next possession, but thankfully for Plainview, Blake Nowell still had some gas left in the tank.
The Longhorn Invitational MVP slashed through the lane, bouncing through traffic with a eurostep before tickling the twine with a finger roll layup, giving him 21 points on the night and Plainview a 74-72 lead.
This time, after two and a half hours of call and response basketball, Plainview finally kept Washington silent, getting a much needed stop.
With only seconds remaining, after his first attempt slipped off the rim, Tyler Berryhill drained a free throw to give Plainview a 75-72 lead. And as Washington’s last second heave missed, Nowell raced to the bench, arms flexed as the Plainview faithful whipped into a weary-eyed frenzy.
Longhorn Invitational? More like Longhorn classic.
“When you play in a game like this it sharpens you,” Plainview coach Deon Stevenson said. “These games sharpen you, they make you tough, they make you playoff tough.”
After their 75-72 championship win in the Longhorn Invite, Stevenson said his team disproved some misconceptions about the kids from Plainview.
“This team from Plainview, they are pretty tough,” Stevenson said, smiling. “I think sometimes they don’t get the reputation for being tough guys, but we showed — we showed a little grit tonight.”
Plainview and Washington each played full throttle basketball to begin the game.
The Indians pushed the pace, with Plainview’s Brock Parham and Cason Dillon seemingly hitting transition threes at will. A 24 point second quarter gave Plainview a 37-33 lead at the half.
But each time Plainview pulled ahead, Washington responded in kind.
“They made big shot after big shot, and made all kind of plays to stay in this game,” Stevenson said.
Nowell, fresh off a scoring dual with Marlow’s Dawson Huddleston the previous night, which drew flashbacks from the Plainview football team’s 67-48 victory over Marlow in the first round of the playoffs, proved his selection as the tournaments most valuable player.
The forward picked up Washington’s guards with a three quarter court press, and showed why he has the name ‘Lambo’ printed on his pregame warm ups, often getting steals and blazing down the court for coast-to-coast layups.
But in the second half, whether it be fatigue or a deliberate attempt by Washington to slow down Plainview’s offense, the pace of the game grinded to a halt.
Fouls and empty possessions took Plainview out of it’s rhythm. And in the third and fourth quarter, Plainview was held to just 23 second half points.
“There was so many fouls called that the game couldn’t really get into a natural flow and I think that’s what happened tonight,” Stevenson said. “It’s hard to get in a rhythm when you’re stopping and taking the ball out of bounds and going to the free throw line. There were moments when we had a free flowing game offensively, but defensively we missed some assignments. It’s about what I expected playing the third game in three nights.”
Despite being out of sync offensively and having some defensive miscues, Stevenson said the most important thing he saw was how the team found a way to win.
“Even though we didn’t play great throughout the game, we played well enough to win,” Stevenson said. “That’s the sign of really good team, when you’re not playing as well as you’d like but you still find a way to win.”
Nowell led Plainview with 21 points. Brock Parham knocked down five three-pointers, scoring 16 points on the night, Cason Dillon added 13 points and Taylor Chambers scored 11 in the win.
Plainview (10-1) will travel to Madill to face the Wildcats at 8 p.m. tomorrow.