Martin gains upper hand with OT win at Lamar

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was an air of desperation surrounding Tuesday’s Arlington Martin-Arlington Lamar boys basketball game.

Both camps conceded that while the winner had the inside track on the fourth and final playoff berth in District 4-5A, the losing team faced a tough road.

Fittingly, it took an overtime to decide it.

Martin, burned on a last-second basket that forced overtime, stopped Lamar on its final possession of the extra period to escape Viking Gym with a 55-53 victory.

The Warriors (14-12, 6-5 in District 4-5A) are tied in the district standings with Lamar (18-11, 6-5). But because of Martin’s sweep of the season series, it now holds an advantage over Lamar should a head-to-head tiebreaker be needed. Each team has three district games remaining.

“This was a must game for us,’’ said Martin 6-foot-6 senior post Charles Buggs, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and a very big assist.

It was Buggs’ pinpoint pass off the dribble to a darting Jordan Walker that turned out to be the game-winning basket with 40 seconds remaining in overtime.

On Lamar’s final possession, 6-foot-9 senior post Cannen Cunningham, an SMU signee, was forced outside to receive the ball and missed a 3-point bid for the lead from the head of the key. Teammate Shayne Allen grabbed the rebound but in his haste to beat the buzzer hit the bottom of the rim.

“I think had Shayne gathered himself, he would have made the shot, but he didn’t know what the time situation was,’’ Lamar coach Zach Burks said. “Regardless, that play didn’t beat us. We allowed a put-back on an offensive rebound, we missed a free throw, and we didn’t make stops when we really needed them.’’

Cunningham finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds despite a collapsing Martin defense that made entry passes difficult.

“It’s frustrating,’’ said Cunningham, who is averaging 20 points and eight rebounds. “All teams play that way, but Martin was a little better at it than most. When I try to do too much, that’s when I get frustrated. The best thing I can do when I get double-teamed is to put my teammates in good position.’’

Warriors guard Myles Johnson led all scorers with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Martin coach Jeff Plemons utilized a 2-3 zone defense in the first half and a match-up zone in the second half to clog the middle.

“Cannen is one of the best big kids to come along in a while,’’ said Plemons. “He has a great future.’’

Lamar guard Kordell Eilts put the game into overtime with a driving basket that pinballed off both sides of the rim before going down.

“I thought we showed a lot of heart because Lamar had the momentum going into overtime,’’ Plemons said.

Said Buggs: “We were kind of down, but we kept our composure and it turned out to be our best game of the year.’’

While disappointed with execution in critical spots, Burks, a one-time assistant on Plemons staff, was proud of the effort of his players.

“This was like a playoff game the way both teams went at it and the way the crowd got into the game,’’ Burks said. “I want every game to be like that.’’

In the preliminary girls game, Martin defeated Lamar, 51-43.