The sight of such a deficit in the latter stages of a game may have been a cause for concern for Runnels High School in years past.
Now, instead of wilting under the pressure, the Raiders are flourishing under extreme conditions and have a lot to show for their efforts.
Runnels rallied from a five-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, putting together a furious three-plus minutes of play to pull away for a 54-45 District 7-2A victory Tuesday over French Settlement.
“It’s been a four-year process,” Runnels coach Ben Young said. “In years past, if we got down by that many points we kind of panicked and took a quick shot. The guys realize they’ve improved and can play with just about anybody in our district.
“Instead of folding or panicking they continued to stay the course, attacked the rim, get some easy looks and made free throws.”
Forward Josh Sparks gave Runnels the lead for good with 3:23 to play, knocking down a 3-pointer — the team’s third in 16 attempts — to ignite a 16-6 run that helped the Raiders outscore the Lions 23-11 in the quarter.
With the home win, Runnels (14-10) completed the first round of district play in first place with a perfect 5-0 record.
Guard Hampton Hudson scored all seven of his points in the last four minutes of play, including 5-of-8 shooting from the free throw line, where Runnels was 13 of 17 in the fourth quarter — a testament to its willingness to drive more to the basket.
The Raiders made 6 of 6 free throws in the first half, shot 35 percent from the field and missed all 11 of their 3-point attempts.
Sparks and Garrett Deshotels each scored 11 with reserve Mohammed Pirzadah adding nine and eight each from Grant Welch and Thomas Myers.
“We’re averaging 50-55 points a game and had 20 at halftime, which is unlike us,” Young said. “Now, we only gave up 20, but I just thought we did a better of attacking the rim and we started to score inside-out. We also got defensive stops that turned into offense.”
The first half featured five ties until French Settlement (11-12, 0-5) methodically opened a 34-28 lead with a 7-2 run and took a five-point margin (36-31) into the final quarter on Landon Thomassie’s 10-footer from the lane.
Thomassie led the Lions with 17 points; Cody Cambre added 12.
French Settlement missed five of its first six shots and turned the ball over six times in a game that had three lead changes in less than a minute until Sparks’ go-ahead 3-point basket from the right wing.
“We kind of lost our composure the last three or four minutes in the fourth quarter,” French Settlement coach John Chewning said.
“We made some stupid fouls away from the ball that gave them six or eight free throws and they hit them all. It made a swing in the game.”