DALLAS, Texas -- One glance at Lake Highlands point guard Beau Barnes from the stands in the Lake Highlands gym and you can see the resemblance.
As he drove from the perimeter to the baseline with 12 seconds remaining in the game and his team down 47-45, even a double-take might not make Barnes look any less like former Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea.
With his diminutive stature, short hair and stubbly beard, Barnes never looked more like the Puerto Rican guard than on Friday, when he drained two free throws after that baseline drive, tying the game at 47. Twelve seconds and one more Barnes free throw later, his Wildcats (12-10, 3-2) took a huge District 9-5A game from Dallas Jesuit (17-4, 3-2), 51-47.
"With the full beard and the short year, yes [people tell me I look like Barea]," Barnes said. "They tell me I play more like him than I look like him, but we're both not close to 6 feet, no matter what people say about J.J."
All the time Barnes said he spent studying film of Barea's play over the past several years came in handy Friday, especially in the fourth quarter.
Barnes left the court in the final period with leg cramps, but was able to re-enter the game and provide a spark for a Wildcat team that had seen its lead vanish late in the game.
Lake Highlands cut Jesuit's lead to one at 46-45 on a 3-pointer from the corner by senior forward Travis Hornstein with 29.5 seconds remaining in the game.
Barnes went so far as to call the shot "a turning point in the season."
"It was the biggest shot all year," Barnes said.
Jesuit guard Jared Johnson hit one of two free throws on the next possession, giving the Rangers a two-point lead.
Barnes drew a foul on a baseline drive and hit both free throws to tie the game, then nabbed a Jesuit turnover and drew another foul with 4.9 seconds remaining. He hit one of two, giving Lake Highlands a one-point lead.
"Those were the two toughest free throws in my life and I managed to hit one to give us the lead," Barnes said. "It's tough to block out that whole crowd though."
Jesuit threw a prayer of a pass to try and hit a last minute shot, but it was intercepted by Lake Highlands to ensure the win.
From the game's start, Barnes brought the energy that is a trademark of his Minnesota Timberwolves doppelganger. The Wildcats' first points of the game came off a turnaround jumper from Barnes, created by a dribble-drive through the middle of the lane.
An early 5-0 run in the second quarter and three big blocks in the frame helped the Wildcats take a 19-12 lead at the half. Lake Highlands jumped to a 40-24 edge after three quarters.
Jesuit switched to a high-pressure, full-court press in the fourth, forcing several Wildcat turnovers to help mount a late comeback.
In the end, it was Barnes' spark that gave Lake Highlands a key district win over Jesuit, who was favored to be the 2-seed in District 9-5A, putting the Wildcats in the mix for prime playoff positioning.
"Maybe this will kind of get us over the hump, because it would have been easy for us to throw up our hands late in the game and we didn't and some good things happened for us," Lake Highlands coach Rob Wylie said. "Hopefully we'll fit in to that mix of four or five teams battling for those [playoff] spots."
As Lake Highlands continues through district play, Wildcat fans should watch out for the Barea look-alike as he pushes himself to do everything his NBA counterpart can, including date a Miss Universe -- or at least a high school equivalent.
"I'm trying to get Miss Lake Highlands," Barnes said. "It's close, but I'll get there."