The No. 20 McLennan Highlanders run at a Region V title came to an end with a heartbreaking 85-76 loss to the South Plains Texans in the semifinal round of the tournament.
It was a fast-paced, run-and-gun type of game from the tip. South Plains opened on a 4-0 run to take the early lead. McLennan's Jashawn Talton drained a 3-pointer from the wing off an inbound pass with 18:33 on the clock to jump-start the Highlander offense. The Highlanders rattled off a 14-0 run spanning just over three minutes to take the only double-digit lead of the game at 14-4 with 16:14 remaining in the first half. The Texans chipped away at the lead behind strong shooting from Jordan Bangers and Isaiah Maurice. Bangers hit a 3-pointer just in front of the McLennan bench with 9:40 to play in the half to put the Texans back on top, 24-22. South Plains extended its lead to six with 1:47 to go before the break, 34-28. Daniel Pinho Severo and Marquez Cooper both scored put-back buckets in the final minute to pull the Highlanders within two at intermission, 34-32.
The teams traded baskets and the lead for the first eight minutes of the second half. South Plains led 52-51 with 12:45 remaining in the game. South Plains began to pull away and took its largest lead of the contest at 71-62 with 7:35 to go, but McLennan wasn't going down without a hard-fought fight. Freshman Jordan Skipper-Brown stepped up, throwing down a dunk followed by a pair of free throws to pull the Highlanders within four. Javen Hedgeman then drove through the lane for a bucket to cap off a 6-0 McLennan run that would pull the Highlanders within five with 6:33 on the clock, 71-68. That, however, would be as close as the Highlanders could get. Bangers and Maurice combined to score 11 of the Texan's final 14 points to secure the win.
Freshman Xaiver Armstead led the way for the Highlanders with 26 points, including seven 3-pointers. Sophomore Jashawn Talton added 18 points. Bangers scored 32 points for South Plains, including 10 3-pointers, and Maurice scored 26 points.
South Plains 85, McLennan 76
South Plains: Keith McGee 3 1-2 10; Isaiah Maurice 11 3-7 26; Ben Perez 2 0-0 6; Christopher Orlina 3 1-2 7; Jordan Bangers 10 2-2 32; Deshawn Corprew 2 0-2 4; Totals 31 7-15 85.
McLennan: Javen Hedgeman 2 1-2 5; Xaiver Armstead 9 1-2 26; Garrett Shaw 1 0-0 3; Jashawn Talton 7 0-0 18; Daniel Pinho Severo 3 1-2 7; Aaron Gregg 1 2-2 4; Marquez Cooper 2 0-0 5; Dayante McClellan 0 0-0 0; Jordan Skipper-Brown 3 2-2 8; Totals: 28 7-10 76.
3-pointers: South Plains 16 (Bangers 10, McGee 3, Perez 2, Maurice 1); McLennan 13 (Armstead 7, Talton 4, Shaw 1, Cooper 1); Total fouls: South Plains 16, McLennan 13; Halftime score: South Plains 34, McLennan 32; Record: McLennan 27-5 (9-3).