AUSTIN, Texas -- Whether it's better to have the state's best offense or the state's best defense wasn't necessarily answered in the Class 5A state title game on Saturday despite Garland Lakeview Centennial and Flower Mound Marcus being able to respectively claim those two titles.
Through one half, Marcus' defense seemingly answered the question, holding the Patriots to a shocking nine points en route to a 20-point lead.
But Lakeview Centennial refuted Marcus' argument in just eight quick minutes, tying the score behind it's swarming press and quick-strike offense.
In the end, the difference between the state's two best units came down to a missed shot at the buzzer by Patriots point guard Chris Jones. His layup rimed out as time expired to give Marcus a 40-38 win at UT's Frank Erwin Center.
It's Marcus' first state basketball title.
"When he drove, it seemed like the ball was in the air for a lifetime," said Marcus guard Phil Forte. "When I saw triple zero, reality hit that we were the state champs."
Game MVP Marcus Smart built an unbelievable first half lead for the Marauders (39-1). He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but his stat lines doesn't do justice to the impact he had on the game.
With Lakeview Centennial (37-2) shooting a putrid 16 percent in the first half, Smart's defensive rebounds and steals only added to the Patriots' woes as Marcus carried a 29-9 lead into the break.
Everything changed after halftime. The Patriots recommitted to their defensive press and Marcus started turning the ball over. That allowed them to pile on points in a hurry with Jones (17 points) leading the way.
"They had a gear defensively that I didn't even realize they had," said Marcus head coach Danny Henderson, who won his third state title having won two with Peaster. "I've never had a team get pressed like this. We had 22 turnovers. Our high for the year was 14. They are just a phenomenal defensive team."
Marcus scored just two points in the third quarter, and the game was tied at 31 entering the fourth.
Lakeview Centennial took a 36-31 early in the fourth and began to stall in hopes of shortening the game, but the plan backfired because it couldn't score after lengthy possessions.
"We just believed in our system of defense," Smart said. "We have the No. 1 defense in the state so we just believed in it. We just trusted one another and got the stops."
Meanwhile, Marcus pulled out of its funk, and Smart gave the Marauders a four-point lead with back-to-back buckets in the closing minutes.
With Marcus nursing a two-point lead, Nick Banyard had a chance to put the game away at the free throw line but missed both shots.
Lakeview rebounded and rushed the floor, but Jones' attempt to tie the game wiggled out of the hole, sending Marcus into a frenzy at center court.
With just one senior in its starting lineup, Marcus will undoubtedly be the favorite to win state again next year.
"We have spring break coming up," Forte said. "Then we have to get back to work and hopefully we'll be back here next year to win another one."