By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
RICHARDSON — Almost three months ago, Jesuit knocked off Richardson Berkner in a nondistrict game that didn’t mean much at the time. But Tuesday was a different story, both in terms of significance and outcome.
Berkner started fast and held off a late rally to defeat Jesuit 65-62 in a Class 6A Region II bi-district playoff game.
Behind a full-court trapping press, the Rams (21-11) jumped out to a quick 13-4 first-quarter lead. But midway through the quarter, the Rangers (18-11) worked through the pressure and some early-game jitters.
With just over two minutes left in the quarter, Peter Lynch drained a baseline 3-pointer, and two more deep threes by Hank Shotland knotted the score at 15-15. After a 17-4 run, the Rangers led 21-17 with just over six minutes left in the first half.
Berkner freshman Russell Barlow finally stopped the run with a short jumper in the lane. Teammate Torey Everett, one of the top scorers in the Dallas area, then converted an inbounds play for a layup while being fouled. Everett’s free throw put Berkner ahead 22-21. That was Berkner’s last lead until late in the third quarter.
“It really was a well-played game by both teams”, said Jesuit head coach Chris Hill. “We beat them early in the season in another close game, and knew we had our hands full — they play hard.”
Tyler Schlapkohl knocked down two more 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, and Christian Chiles’ rainbow floater put the Rangers back on top 29-24 with just under four minutes left in the first half.
Jesuit was successful on five attempts from behind the three-point line in the first half, and led 35-29 at the intermission.
Lynch, who led all scorers with 24 points, scored six straight points midway through the third quarter to give Jesuit its largest advantage at 44-35. But that’s when the game took a deciding turn.
At the 4:46 mark of the third quarter, Berkner started a 14-0 run sparked by Davis Steelman’s long-range perimeter three. The run went deep into the final quarter and enabled Berkner to regain the lead at 49-44. Steelman, who finished with 16 points, made two more key shots and the Rams never trailed again.
“It’s difficult to let a team like Berkner go on a late run like that and try to come back,” Hill said. “We fought hard, which doesn’t surprise me, as we’ve battled adversity all season long.”
Jesuit rallied late in the game and got within three at 60-57 when Christian Nwosu scored on a drive into the lane with 1:31 left to play. But Jesuit was forced to foul and Berkner made just enough free throws to close out the game. Everett led Berkner with 23 points.
“To these eight seniors, they put it all together in their last season and I couldn’t be more proud of them”, Hill said. “We overcame a lot this season, including the injury to Michael [McReynolds], and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”