LUBBOCK – A buzzer beater was one reason why Graham got to play at the Rip Griffin Center Friday night in the first place.
That and the Steers’ precision in tight playoff games had the Young County school appearing in its first regional tournament in almost a decade.
It was no surprise Graham whittled away Levelland’s six-point lead in the final three minutes. When Bryce Bozeman’s shot tied the game with less than a minute remaining, coach Marcus Morris was already thinking about overtime.
However, this time there would be no last-second heroics – at least not for the Steers. Instead, it was the Lobos’ Jakeevian Ford with a putback at the buzzer that handed Graham a 48-46 defeat.
“One more rebound, one more stop, one more made basket,” said Morris, whose Steers finished 23-10. “It’s going to be one of those type of nights and the ride home tomorrow if you start really dissecting it. We played good defense at the last, a guy forced a shot and we had a hand in his face. We stood and watched the ball, and they tipped it in.”
Indeed, Case Birch closed out Reid O’Connor’s 3-point attempt that left his hands with two seconds left, but the ball hit the front rim and caromed to Ford, who led all scorers with 19 points. The senior’s shot bounced on the rim twice before falling through the net.
It was Marc Tate’s putback off a missed shot that helped Graham survive Krum in the area round, but the Steers weren’t the only team at Lubbock Christian University who’d pulled out a squeaker. Earlier in the week, Ford drilled a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining to upset Clint, 46-44, inside the same gym.
“Good things happen when you just put in a little effort and go to the glass with the game on the line,” Levelland coach Jordan Elam said of the finish. “That’s what playoff basketball is all about. You’re just trying to survive and we’re just happy to keep playing.”
Levelland (20-12) advances to face No. 5 Decatur in the Region I-4A finals at 6 p.m. Saturday. Drew Coffman’s Eagles took down Lubbock Estacado 52-46 in the first semifinal behind Wilson Hicks’ 18 points.
Morris felt that Graham was out of sync the whole game, but the Steers led 37-31 with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by Birch, who finished with a team-high 12 points.
However, Levelland responded on an 11-0 run that included Bryan White’s 3-pointer to end the third quarter and a three... Click here to read full article