By BILL PETERSON
San Marcos High School boys basketball coach Rob Shivers isn’t surprised when District 17-4A opponents run combination defenses at his team. But even Shivers can be surprised by the specific combinations.
Friday night, Manor went to the Snake Pit and threw up a triangle-and-two, which is a three-man zone with two players guarding man-to-man. The strategy makes a certain native sense against the Rattlers, who rely heavily on Cameron Austin and Lee Bryant to score the ball.
But the Mustangs went against form, manning Austin and Chad Arch. The result was that Bryant, the Rattlers’ second highest scorer and most reliable outside shooter, found himself working against a short zone.
According to form, the Rattlers might have feasted against the combination. But it was just one of those nights, Bryant couldn’t find his shooting rhythm consistently and no one Shivers tried was able to put the ball in the hole.
In the end, Manor carted off a 60-47 victory, improving to 19-5 overall and 4-0 in the district to set up a big meeting Tuesday against Del Valle, which entered Friday’s games 4-0 in the league.
The Rattlers fell to 15-8 and 3-2 with their next game coming next Friday night against Del Valle in the Snake Pit.
The schedule indicated that the Rattlers were entering a tough stretch with consecutive games against Manor and Del Valle. But both games are at home, and this stretch isn’t nearly as challenging as the stretch at the end of this season, when the Rattlers will play those teams back-to-back on the road
Manor is a fast, agile team that plays under control, mixes its defenses and poses numerous strategic challenges for its opponents. Friday night, the Mustangs switched up after halftime, throwing doses of man-to-man at the Rattlers, who just never caught their bearings at the offensive end.
The Mustangs blew open an 18-15 lead at the end of the second quarter with a 10-2 run, increasing their halftime lead to 28-17. The hill proved to be more than San Marcos could climb.
“The whole game was a grind,” Shivers said. “They’re one of those athletic teams that’s very controlled, and that makes them very tough. We had all kinds of chances in the first half and just couldn’t make them.”
The Rattlers also had chances in the second half, but were unable to make shots drop. Austin scored seven points in the first few minutes of the third quarter, bringing them within 34-27. But when the Rattlers extended their defense in the halfcourt, Manor’s LaDarrien Williams consistently cut them up with drives through the open floor.
San Marcos made a small move in the middle of the fourth quarter. With Manor holding a 48-39 lead, Williams missed a free throw and the Rattlers raced down court, where Aaron Canady made a three from the top of the arch to make it 48-42 with 2:25 left. Austin hit two free throws with two minutes remaining, bringing the Rattlers within 49-44.
But Manor was just too good at playing keep-away and hitting free throws down the stretch. Even when the Rattlers managed to foul, Manor players hit nine of 12 free throws in the last two minutes, extending their five-point lead to 13 at the end.
Williams led the Mustangs with 27 points spread pretty evenly through the game. Lawrence Roberts followed him with 12 points for Manor. Bryant led San Marcos with 12 points, followed by Austin with 11.Email | Print