SAN ANTONIO -- Freshman Jordan Walsh’s buzzer-beating baseline dunk won the first of what could be many state championships for the Oak Cliff Faith Family Eagles, 53-51, over Liberty Hill Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Walsh’s amazing flush – how often do you truly see a buzzer-beating dunk? – came after a mad dash to the finish. After controlling the game for the most part of three and a half quarters, Liberty Hill relinquished the lead only to figure out a way to knot the game with less than 20 seconds to play. Senior guard Rakeim Gary drove the lane and dished to Walsh who did the rest, setting off a wild celebration.
“I didn’t want to take the chance of missing an easy layup so I was intent on dunking it as soon as I caught Rakeim’s pass,” said Walsh who spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble.
For Barry Boren, whose Liberty Hill beat Decatur 24 hours ago on a buzzer beater, the loss was tough but not devasting.
“Look, the juice is worth the squeeze. This journey has all been worth it,” said Boren, who’s team held powerhouse Faith Family to just three points in the second quarter. “I’m disappointed to be sure but not devasted.”
The fourth quarter started with a bang – two actually. The teams exchanged three-pointers, the first by Bannon and the follow up by Murphy-Brown. A drive and dish led to an easy layup for Faith Family and the lead was down to one with just under 6 minutes to play. When freshman scoring machine Trae Clayton connected on a short jumper from the baseline and converted the foul shot, the Eagles had their first lead of the night, 45-43.
Clayton, another freshman starter, had been on quite the scoring roll coming into the game but was held in check most of the night, finishing with 15. Still, his stretch of clutch shooting and hard-nosed defense proved invaluable on a night when not much was going great on the offensive end for the Eagles.
“We had to trust our defense and figure out a way to get the game back in our control with our defense,” said Faith Family head coach Brandon Thomas, whose team finished the season 36-6.
Most figured the first few minutes of the third quarter would look like hurricane of activity from Faith Family. And although they drew closer thanks to a Trae Clayton layup and a Langston Murphy-Brown three pointer, the quarter ended with Liberty Hill still in comman. Baty again played a significant role down the stretch in the quarter and a cold-blooded three from the top of the key by McCurdy pushed back an Eagle surge. Still, Clayton late steal, bucket and foul shot brought the game to just three points with a quarter to play.
A funny thing happened on the way to what many thought would be an early knockout. Liberty Hill definitely doesn’t have a glass jaw. Behind the shooting of Carson Perkins, Parker McCurdy and Walker Baty, the Runnin’ Panthers decided to treat the crowd to one of the most surprising first quarters in this tournament. When the dust settled on the first eight minutes, Liberty Hill clung to a 19-17 advantage and the sizable contingent from Liberty Hill was going bonkers town.
Death by a thousand paper cuts is a good way to explain what was going on early for Oak Cliff Faith Family. Every loose ball, every charge, every blocked pass, every everything went to Liberty Hill as they outhustled the favored Eagles to build a 23-17 lead with five minutes to play in the half. Baty, the beefy 6-5 junior, figured out ways to get rebounds over and around much springier kids from Faith Family.
Mike Lenoir’s three-point with just over 3 minutes in the half was the first points scored by Faith Family in the quarter. But by the time Kaleb Bannon and Jareck Naylor connected for three pointers at the end of the half and Liberty Hill rushed off the locker room up by 10, 30-20.