KILGORE — Growing up.
The Spring Hill Panthers may have done just that Friday night in their heartstopping 50-49 thriller over the Kilgore Bulldogs.
With the victory, Spring Hill locks up no worse than a tie for the District 15-4A championship, and improves to 20-12 overall. It’s the first loop title in hoops for the Panthers since 2012.
Spring Hill managed to keep Kilgore at arm’s length much of the evening, but never could manage to build a lead larger than nine points.
The Bulldogs turned up the defensive heat, forcing several Panther turnovers late.
When Sam Kosel knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers the Bulldogs took their first lead of the night 46-44 with 3:55 remaining.
Kilgore increased its advantage to 48-44 with under three minutes to play. Tyler Caron answered the bell when he ripped a baseline three at 2:27 to make it 47-48.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over after an offensive foul with exactly 120 seconds left on the clock.
Caron, who scored six of his game-high 22 points down the stretch in the fourth quarter, knocked the front end of a two-shot foul to tie the game at 48-all with 1:51 to go.
A nifty spin move to the basket by Caron with 52 seconds left gave Spring Hill back to the lead.
Seth Thomas, who produced 12 points for the Bulldogs in the losing effort, drew a foul going to the hoop with 0:20 on the clock. He made the first an missed the second. Elijah Williams got inside position and pulled the offensive board.
Williams, surrounded by a sea of blue jerseys, couldn’t connect on the put back. The Panthers were then able to dissolve the final seconds and secure the triumph.
“Heckuva game. My kids have finally figured out how to win a close one in somebody else’s gym,” said an exhausted Tim Ender after the game.
“We couldn’t really get a run going the whole game. They started coming back on us. Credit them. They played a real good ball game.”
The Panthers canned successive threes from Caron and Kyren Miller to get the show started. Miller would finish the night with 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting and a perfect 5 of 5 from the line.
Miller, as he’d shown a propensity to do, drew a foul at the first period horn while behind the arc. He calmly dropped all three charity tosses as the Panthers assumed a 15-9 lead.
Caron drew a foul from Hunter Bonnette and parlayed that into a three-point play. He followed with three of four from the stripe as Spring Hill eased out to a 22-13 lead midway of the first half.
Deiontrae Wheat popped in a three as Kilgore stayed within striking distance. Ryan Willis responded for Spring Hill with a nice driving layup.
Wheat, who tallied 12 points, bolted the length of the floor with a transition bucket before Miller sank a pair of freebies to give the Panthers a 26-21 halftime advantage.
Article provided by ETVarsity.com.