By JASON JUMP
SAN MARCOS — While New Hampshire voters were dealing with a couple of comebacks by Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain Tuesday night in the presidential primaries, a couple thousand miles to the west, San Marcos High School was looking for a comeback of its own against 25-5A front runner Austin High School.
The Rattlers had dropped two straight district contests and they were looking to move back to the .500 mark with a win. In the first half, it looked as though SMHS had an upset brewing for the visiting Maroons. However, a 10-0 third-quarter run put San Marcos into a hole that proved to be too large to dig out of in the six-point ,75-69, loss to Austin High.
“We played well last night, but didn’t execute down the stretch or at the beginning of the third quarter,” third-year head coach Robert Shivers said of the Rattlers’ third straight district loss.
SMHS definitely had the momentum in its corner at times Tuesday night. The Rattlers’ Joseph Saldana hit a layup at the buzzer to end the first half with the home team leading 41-38, and AHS turned the ball over on its first possession of the second half, but San Marcos couldn’t convert on the other end before the Maroons’ went on their 10-0 run. The run gave them a seven-point lead, 48-41, midway through the third quarter.
Missed shots and miscues were the downfall of the Rattlers throughout the early part of the second half. San Marcos missed a number of shots and turned the ball over several times before Lauren Morales halted the skid with a 3-pointer with just over three minutes left to play in the quarter. The shot brought the Rattlers to within four points, at 48-44.
Austin High did manage to stave off any threat of a comeback, as the Maroons were able to increase their lead to 10 points, 58-48, heading into the final eight minutes of play. Alston Knuckles, the team’s leading scorer, with a game-high 22 points, put his Maroons up 12 points to start the fourth quarter. SMHS scored scored nine points in less than a minute-and-a-half to close the gap to three points, 60-57.
The Rattlers cut the lead to one possession, 66-64, with just under two minutes left to play in the district contest, but Austin High closed out the game on a 9-5 run to seal their fourth district win of the season, while SMHS fell to 1-3 in district play.
Shivers said its not time to panic, but the next two games fall into the proverbial must-win category if the Rattlers are going to make a push for a third straight playoff appearance this season.
“This is my third year here at San Marcos, and we have played in post-season games the last two years, including a second round appearance in 2005-06,” the Rattlers’ head coach said. “We need to win the next two to get back into it (playoff race). Four teams make the playoffs in 5A districts, so we will be back in fourth if we win the next two games in a row.”
Shivers said while it would have been nice to pick up a pair of wins over Bastrop and Austin High those two teams have been at the top of the district race the last several years. He said it was the Rattlers’ second district game of the season that SMHS should have won.
“The loss to Akins (High School) was the one that hurt,” Shivers said of the Rattlers’ 70-58 setback to Akins High School.
The good news for San Marcos is that the Rattlers will be taking to the road for their next two 25-5A showdowns. Normally road trips are not good news, but SMHS’ only district win has come while traveling this season. San Marcos will take on Austin Westlake High School, which is currently sitting in fourth place in the district standings, Friday, Jan. 11 at 7:30. Then Tuesday, Jan. 15, the Rattlers will travel to Austin Anderson to face a squad that is currently 1-3 in district play.
Austin High: Alston Knuckles 22, Bobby Ashley 18, Zach Green 16, Kris Green 11
San Marcos: Shane McBryde 21, Lauren Morales 20, Joseph Saldana 8
Austin High School 4-0
Austin Bowie High School 3-1
Bastrop High School 3-1
Austin Westlake High School 2-2
Austin Anderson High School 1-3
Austin Akins High School 1-3
San Marcos High School 1-3
Seguin High School 1-3