HALTOM, CITY, Texas -- The battle for fifth place in the Whataburger Tournament Orange Bracket between ESPNHS Fab 50 No. 4 Flower Mound Marcus and and No. 33 DeSoto was a waiting game.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, Marcus coach Danny Henderson decided to control DeSoto’s fast pace and spread out his team around the perimeter in its half-court offense.
DeSoto let all but 10 seconds drain off the clock before Marcus' Marcus Smart drove the lane for a layup attempt that was put back by Jared Hamilton as time expired.
The last-second shot gave Marcus a four-point lead going into the fourth, the ball back to start the frame, and momentum that led to a 58-45 win and a fifth-place trophy for the Marauders.
“We had the possession to open the fourth quarter," Henderson said. "If they weren’t going to come out and play us, I just said I’ll take two possessions and give them none. It worked just like we wanted to.”
Henderson said he’d typically rather not run a stall, but he put the onus on DeSoto to force a play and they chose to wait it out.
The teams were within four points of each other at the end of each of the first three quarters, but Marcus rode the double-possession momentum it gained by stalling to outscore DeSoto 20-10 in the fourth.
Marcus won the game on the glass, outrebounding DeSoto 41-20. Smart pulled down 18 boards.
“Our offensive rebounding started with our commitment to drive to the basket,” Henderson said. “We started the game shooting 3s, but I called a timeout and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to attack the rim.’ Once we started attacking the rim, it gets them out of block-out position because they can’t help and block out.”
Marcus guard A.J. Luckey answered the call and was able to penetrate the lane at will, hitting several acrobatic layups. As Henderson predicted, DeSoto was forced to slide a defender over to help defend Luckey, leaving Smart and Hamilton an open lane for the rebound and put-back.
“His driving is critical,” Henderson said of Luckey. “He’s so good at driving the ball. When he and Marcus can get to the rim we’re just so much better offensively.”
Smart took advantage with 15 points, and Luckey added 14 for Marcus, which got a team-high 16 from Phil Forte, who hit all nine of his free-throw attempts.
DeSoto standout and Duke commit Matt Jones had a game-high 24 points, aided by three 3-pointers in the second quarter.
After losing to Richland on Wednesday morning, Marcus’ final placing in the tournament was irrelevant, Henderson said. He was more concerned with his team correcting shortcomings in teamwork and communication that are hard for high school players to see when they are routinely winning and winning big.
It was an introspective lesson that could pay big dividends when important hardware is on the line in March.
“We didn’t talk about [Richardson] Berkner or DeSoto," Henderson said. "All we talked about is getting back to what we do and our culture and playing hard, cheering for each other and loving each other. That’s our culture and that’s what we care about, and we’ve got that back. This season is a journey and that loss is going to make us better in the long run.”