Tigers make 20 of 25 free throws in fourth quarter
A thriller devolved into a horror movie for Edison as the fourth quarter progressed last Friday at Canyon Lake High School.
Edison, which finished with a 24-11 record, trailed Dripping Springs (24-11) by two points with little more than three minutes remaining in the Class 4A area-round game. The Tigers then embarked on a seemingly uninterrupted parade to the foul line, somewhat due to the Golden Bears hopes to extend the game and improve its chances for advancement.
Unfortunately for Edison, Dripping Springs sank 20 of 25 free throws in the fourth quarter to eliminate the Golden Bears 54-44. Three Edison players fouled out in the fourth quarter and another drew his fourth foul.
“We just fell short,” Edison coach Art Vela said. “They’re very long and very conservative on defense. We tried to spread them out and break them down to get to the basket. We got some open looks, but we didn’t knock down too many.”
The Golden Bears were within 40-38 with 3:03 left in the physical game when senior point guard Justin Torres (20 points, 12 rebounds) made a short jumper off a spin move.
Torres had kept Edison close with nine points in the third quarter.
“Justin has been our foundation,” Vela said. “He’s really improved this year. Everything you saw today was something he’s been doing for us all year. He’s a lockdown defender and he runs our offense. He always gives great effort. He’s done a great job for us.”
The Tigers scored the next nine points, scoring seven from the free-throw stripe. Six-foot-7 Patrick Bullock (11 points, 16 rebounds) made five of the attempts.
“We’re a very mature team,” Dripping Springs coach Craig Swannack said. “In the fourth quarter, our seniors really took the lead.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is making our free throws in the fourth quarter. That’s something I was really happy with.”
Edison didn’t score again until 39 seconds remained, when Angelo Leyvani nailed a three-point basket from the top of the key. Dripping Springs led 49-43.
Bullock and defensive standout A.J. Huff each made two free throws and Brogan Lynch made one to cement the Tigers’ win. A free throw from senior post Andy Castro with 11.3 seconds to play counted as the Golden Bears’ final point in the 2013-14 season.
Edison led 18-14 with 3:23 remaining in the first half after Lorenzo Vela, the coach’s son, was fouled on a three-pointer and made two free throws. It was the third time the Golden Bears had increased their lead to four points.
The Tigers scored the next 12 points, including the first six in the second half. Their lead reached 10 points when Torres scored nine-consecutive Edison points. He converted a steal into a layup to bring the Golden Bears within 32-31 when the third quarter ended.
“Our kids, they give 100 percent,” Vela said. “In the third quarter, there was a period when it looked like they were going to give up. But one or two kids stepped up and, suddenly, we were right back in the ballgame.”
Dripping Springs ended the game on a 14-6 run. Guards Blake Chiuminetta and Bryce Hegemier each scored 13 points for the Tigers. Combined, they made nine of 10 free throws in the fourth.
“They all did a good job,” Vela said of his players. “That’s a heck of a team.”
Lorenzo Vela finished with nine points and four rebounds. However, he never found his shooting touch against tight defense from Huff.
“One of the things we told him was that he had to stay on Vela’s left,” Swannack said. “He did that very well.”
Castro and Jared Zapata claimed seven rebounds apiece, as Edison had a 37-36 rebounding advantage against the taller Tigers.
“One of the things we talked about was winning the rebounding battle in the second half – and it was a scrum,” Swannack said. “We challenged (the kids) to get every single rebound. We didn’t get every single one, but we got almost all the important ones.”
Edison had opened some eyes with a 61-56 win over Alamo Heights (28-5) Tuesday in the bi-district round. The Mules, who recently lost 6-9 Georgia Tech signee Ben Lammers to a season-ending injury, were ranked No. 18 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches state rankings.
Torres led the Golden Bears with 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Lorenzo Vela scored 18 points, making three 3-point shots, and added four rebounds, four steals and four assists. Edson Salazar and Zapata each scored eight.
“We had a lot of motivation, because we neighbor each other,” Vela said. “Their school district boundary borders on ours. But we come from two different circumstances. The guys were really hungry to beat Alamo Heights, because they ended our season last year.
“Even without Lammers, they’re still a good team. We spread them out and got to the basket. In the second half, they switched (defenses) and they hit a lot of shots, but we made our free throws to hold them off.”
The Golden Bears will lose Torres, Castro, Salazar, Tony Alvarado and Justin Rodriguez to graduation from the playing rotation.
“What I love abour our team is that they’re a big family and that they’ve bonded together,” Vela said. “They’ve stuck together and worked together. They’ve done everything I’ve asked. They’d run through a wall for me if I asked them to.”
The prospective returnees are led by Lorenzo Vela and Zapata, both of whom made big strides this season. The Edison coach pointed out that his team won’t be as tall without the 6-6 Castro and 6-4 Alvarado.
“We’ll have our JV kids, and we’ll have Lorenzo and Jared back,” Vela said. “We’re losing everybody else, but I think those two kids will be our leaders and they’ll set the tone for the others. The JV had a lot of guys who were workhorses.
“We’ll be a lot smaller, but we’ll make some adjustments and, hopefully, we’ll be back in the mix next year.”