By Sam Parsons
The Montezuma Braves took to the floor in Pleasantville to match with the 8th ranked Baxter Bolts in the district final of the 1A playoffs.
The Bolts entered the game with only 1 loss on the season, but the Braves were more battle-tested. Whereas the Bolts had only played 2 regular season games against opponents that remained in the playoffs as of yesterday, the Braves had played 7 such games. As a result, despite the significant advantage Baxter had in W-L, the matchup looked to be even on paper.
And it was…with one exception. The first four minutes of the game were a nightmare scenario for the Braves. The Bolts knocked down each of their first three 3-point attempts and each of their first 7 field goals (they entered the game as a 29.6% shooting team from range); meanwhile, the Braves were unable to hit a single one of their field goals in the first four minutes. The result was a 17-0 Baxter lead midway through the first quarter.
From there, the Braves began to find their groove offensively, but the Bolts kept the hits coming and were dominating the boards. At one point in the 2nd quarter, it was a 39-17 game and the Braves faced an immense challenge in getting back into the game.
But all the while, senior Masin Shearer was keeping things afloat for Montezuma on the offensive end. Shearer caught fire in the first half with 6 3-pointers on his way to 22 first half points. The Braves closed the half on a strong note, but still trailed by 14 points at the break, 49-35.
Undaunted, the Braves continued to slowly claw their way back into the game. They again outscored the Bolts in the 3rd quarter as the points continued to pile up for Shearer and the rest of the squad picked things up as well. Entering the 4th, it was 64-54. Things were trending up for Montezuma, but coming back from 10 points down to the 8th ranked team in the state still required a lot of work.
The Braves responded with an 8-2 run to begin the fourth quarter to make it a 66-62 game with roughly 5 minutes left. At last, they had made it all the way back into the game after their disaster start, showing remarkable mental fortitude. The two teams battled back and forth for several possessions that followed and it appeared the game could go down to the wire.
It was in the final 2-3 minutes that the Bolts regained their form. With Montezuma facing increasingly dire odds, they began taking shots earlier in possessions and couldn’t get them to go. The Bolts had success from the free throw line in crunch time and pulled away from the Braves enough to lock the game up in the final minute. The final score was 82-69 with the Bolts moving on to the substate final on Saturday.
The Braves (17-7) graduate four seniors: Masin Shearer, Gavin Strong, Owen Cook, and Colton Benson. Shearer finished the game with an incredible 39 points, including a 7/13 night from 3 point range.