By BILL PETERSON
San Marcos High School girls basketball coach Shad Sharlach didn’t like everything he saw on the floor for most of Tuesday night, but he liked what he saw in his team when it ended.
Lehman coach Danny Preuss saw more or less what he expected Tuesday night, and when it ended he saw a solid postseason contender in a seven-team district with four bids to the playoffs. It must have been nice for Preuss to see that so clearly after his group shot 19.5 percent from the floor (eight of 41) and 52.9 percent (nine of 17) from the free throw line.
The result went to San Marcos, 30-24 at the Snake Pit, where Sharlach felt the relief of climbing into the playoff picture with the Rattlers’ second straight win after starting District 17-4A with three straight losses. The Rattlers’ 2-3 record (15-10 overall), puts them in a flat fourth-place tie with Lehman, which is 10-14 overall.
Though the score rightly suggests a defensive struggle, this game was every bit as much an offensive struggle. After three quarters, the Rattlers held a 17-16 lead. In the end, they made only 40.6 percent of their floor shots (13 of 32) and an unconscionable 28.5 percent from the line (four of 14).
The game turned on a moment of clarity for San Marcos in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. The Rattlers were just a little bit sharper, covering just another loose ball and making just another shot, which vaulted them to a 26-20 lead on Jasmine Williams’ three-pointer with 3:55 left. In a game where every little lead mattered, six points was insurmountable. Shortly later, Ashley Crayton scored to make the lead 28-20.
Lehman responded offensively with its usual flavor and cut the lead in half by the final buzzer. Preuss chalked it up to one of those nights when he saw what his team can and can’t do.
The Lobos are either going to shoot a little bit, or they aren’t. Because he’s not exactly working with a pack of gym rats, Preuss is plying the approach he used to exercise as Donny McDonald’s assistant at Hays, pushing defense and waiting for the shots to fall.
“I’ve always told my girls that if we shoot 30 percent, we’ll be in every game,” Preuss said. “Our defense kept us there for three and a half quarters tonight. It came down to about three minutes where they were just a little better.”
Preuss pointed out that if his team had shot 30 percent in San Marcos, it would have been worth ten points in a four-point loss. But he still saw his team in the thick of the playoff race at 2-3, exactly the same position as San Marcos. The situation is equally tantalizing and tenuous for both teams. Both teams stand to rise or fall Friday night.
The Rattlers will play at Manor, which holds third place at 3-2. Lehman will play at home against Del Valle, the second place team at 4-1. Hays leads the district at 5-0, while Elgin is fifth at 2-4. Lockhart is 0-5.
“We’re not in any hole,” the Rattlers’ coach said on a night when a loss would have put them there. Sharlach was very pleased that his team won on a night of struggle, which is one of the more satisfying moments for a high school coach. Like most close games, this one turned on one team being a little more in the game near enough to the end, and Sharlach credited that to his team’s composure.
“We didn’t get frustrated,” Sharlach said. “Things weren’t going well for us, and we didn’t have any finger pointing. We were being very aggressive defensively.”
On a night when a win mattered to both teams, it ended up mattering most to San Marcos, which might have finished the night staring into a competitive abyss, two games out of the playoffs with seven games left. It’s a small hole, but it’s a hill to climb. Instead, the Rattlers are even with the playoffs. And they learned that when they need a win real bad, they can get a really bad win, if there should be such a thing.
“We took care of business,” Sharlach said. “In district, you have to win and move on.”
Ashley Crayton led San Marcos with nine points, followed by Daisha Williams with eight. Chanelle Williams led Lehman with seven points.Email | Print