SGP survives to set up final against FM Marcus

FORT WORTH, Texas -- South Grand Prairie survived a barrage of 3-pointers to beat El Paso Hanks, 56-53, Friday night.

Hanks' Christian Velasquez stole the show with 18 of his 20 points from beyond the arc, but SGP controlled the fourth quarter to hold on.

"We didn't play solid defense," South Grand Prairie head coach Brandon Bennett said. "We left people wide open and they knocked their shots down."

Chris Wasburn led South Grand Prairie with 15 points. He said his team struggled to guard the Knights on the perimeter until the fourth-quarter adjustments.

"We just started running them off the line and forcing them to come in," Washburn said.

The Knights couldn't score in the paint against the 6-foot-8 Washburn. He had several key blocks late in the game, but was also forced to guard against the 3-pointer.

Washburn was unstoppable early on, scoring the first six points of the game to help the Warriors to a 15-9 lead after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, El Paso caught fire. The Knights made four 3-pointers to go up 29-26 heading into the locker room.

The teams went back-and-forth in the third quarter. With South Grand Prairie down 39-37, Washburn dived for a loose ball and called a timeout with 16 seconds left. Jayrn Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Warriors a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Warriors dominated on defense in the fourth quarter. Clutch free throws helped South Grand Prairie go on an 11-3 run to go up 53-44 with less than two minutes left.

"We made adjustments to slow it down," Bennett said. "We were moving way too fast, and that's not what we want."

El Paso Hanks hit two big 3-pointers to bring the Knights within 56-50 with 30 seconds left.

Velasquez hit his last 3-pointer with five seconds left in the game to bring the game within three.

South Grand Prairie secured the inbound pass and the Knights couldn't foul before the buzzer.

Velasquez was disappointed in the loss, but said he was proud of the way his team came to play against the POWERADE FAB 50 No. 44 team in the nation.

"People doubted us from the beginning," Velasquez said. "Knowing that we hung in with one of the best teams in the country, it means a lot to us."

The senior guard said he doesn't know where he wants to play college basketball yet, but he'll bring his work ethic with him. He says he even puts basketball before lunch.

"Every day, I go in at lunch and shoot 300 shots before I go eat," Velasquez said. "My last challenge, I wanted to go out big. I think all my hard work paid off this year."

The win sets up a highly-anticipated matchup between South Grand Prairie and Flower Mound Marcus in the Region 1 final. The ESPN Dallas Top 10's best two teams play Saturday at 1 p.m. at Fort Worth's Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center.

"I'm really excited," Washburn said. "This is what everyone came to see out here."