Natalia wins fourth-place tiebreaker
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Fox Tech.
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It’s not an exaggeration to claim that Fox Tech is a different school than the last time the Buffaloes qualified for the playoffs in 2010.
With more than 1,000 fewer students and a college-prep academic mission, Fox Tech had struggled with those effects on the courts and athletic fields as it was pitted against its fellow SAISD schools and burgeoning powerhouse Brennan. The Buffaloes finally got a reprieve this year, when redistricting placed them in District 26-3A.
Armed with a new lease on life, Fox Tech (13-20, 3-7) tied Natalia for fourth in the district and reached the doorstep of the playoffs. Although the Buffs had defeated the Mustangs Jan. 16 in their first 26-3A meeting, Natalia (14-15, 3-7) continually gathered momentum through the first three quarters and withstood Fox Tech’s comeback for a 60-47 tiebreaking win Feb. 20 at the Lanier Alumni Center.
The seven seniors on the roster hadn’t won a district game since they were freshmen prior to the season. The Buffaloes compiled a 12-77 record in the previous three years playing two classifications higher.
“The guys just jumped at the chance to be a contender,” Fox Tech coach Kellen Morgan said. “I’m so proud of this senior group. They learned how to win this year, and that’s not easy.
“To get 13 wins is incredible.”
By virtue of the win, Natalia holds the district’s fourth seed. The loss ended Fox Tech’s season.
“It can take us a while to get started,” Natalia coach Jeremy Glover said, “but when everybody is playing together and executing, we can be a good team.”
Natalia roared to a 7-2 start on a steal and layup from guard John Luevano (11 points). The Buffaloes cut the Mustangs’ lead to 10-6 at the end of the quarter with a basket from Gabriel Tirado and a pair of free throws from sophomore Roger McCracken.
Fox Tech entered the game without two of its three leading scorers by average. Senior Nick Buys (13.7 points a game) sustained a possible ankle fracture Feb. 13 against Marion. Senior Angel Lopez (7.7) was injured in the first Natalia game.
“Nick was someone we couldn’t replace,” Morgan said. “It took everyone stepping up.”
Mustangs center Bryan Trevino (19 points) scored seven of Natalia’s 22 second-quarter points. The Mustangs led 32-13 at halftime and 53-29 with 3:30 remaining in the game.
“Bryan’s the man,” Glover said. “When our guards are playing well, he can be very, very difficult to defend.”
Fox Tech senior Ruben Chapa scored 14 of his team-best 22 points in the fourth quarter. Chapa led the comeback by attacking the basket and getting to the foul stripe. Jacob Ortiz finished with 12 points.
“It was the first postseason game in six years for our fans and they were excited,” Morgan said. “Until the end, I think our players were feeling it. We were kind of out of control. Then we settled down and just started playing.
“Without Nick, Ruben had a heavier load than normal.”
Despite the substantial graduation loss of their seniors, the Buffaloes will return five players representing each of the other three classes.
“I think the seniors have set a great example,” Morgan said. “I really like our JV team. With some of our returning players like Roger McCracken, I look forward to the offseason and getting ready for next year.”