SAN ANTONIO—A fourth state title for the Lipan Indians will have to wait for another season after Clarendon used a runaway third quarter to stun the state’s only undefeated team 65-51 behind a 41-point performance from LaMarcus Penigar.
It was a classic matchup with the wrong ending for No. 1 Lipan (39-1) after beating 39 straight teams and having all come apart against the same team the Indians had worked hard to face again.
It indeed was a battle in the first half as Lipan fought its way to a 24-16 lead in the first half, but it would be a different story over the last 16 minutes as Penigar and company blazed the net on a 29-9 run to take a 45-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Penigar hit early, and often he drilled home a pair of three-pointers to start the second half that put the momentum in the Broncos’ favor.
“We talked at halftime about not letting them get a three-pointer or a dunk because they are a momentum-oriented team. Clarendon (31-2) plays at such a higher level when they are feeling that good,” Gaylor said. “In the first half, we played our style—our game. Penigar is a good player, and I told him so. After the game, I shook his hand. I think I got some burns because he was still hot.”
Penigar was so hot that Gaylor conceded that it might have been the best offensive performance by a single player he has coached to stop.
“I really can’t think of anything better,” Gaylor said. “He (Penigar) had a great game offensively. We planned to try and keep him on the floor driving and maybe get him into some foul trouble. There were a couple of times when we didn’t have a good defensive rotation. It’s hard to keep him in front of you, and he doesn’t need much space to get that shot off.”
As the score started to get out of reach, the Indians began trying too hard and making mistakes. Then a little bit of panic set in that led to poor decisions on defense, and Clarendon never let go of the momentum and maintained its lead with a 20-18 advantage in the final eight minutes.
The 2022 basketball season has been all about payback for last season’s loss to Clarendon in the state semifinals when the Indians were tripped up 68-47 by the Broncos. Clarendon denied Lipan a trip to the state title game, and the restrictions of COVID 19 prevented the Indians from getting the “whole” experience of the final four at the Alamodome.
On the way to a tournament in Port Aransas, Gaylor stopped the bus at the Alamodome so his players could see it, and it was there that “Take AIM’ became the motto of this year’s team.
“We had a little talk on the front steps, and our motto this year was “Take AIM,” which stands for ‘Alamodome In March,’ and we were able to accomplish that goal,” Gaylor said.
Gaylor kicked off an intense offseason that had a total concentration on the weight room. The Broncos had outmuscled the Indians in the paint, and the solution there was to bulk up.
In Friday’s 58-40 semifinal win against Mumford, Lipan poured in 32 points from the paint and used an offense designed to attack the Mustangs’ interior, especially in the second half. At the end of the third quarter, the Mustangs were out of fuel and down by 10 points, and the Indians never let up.
The most unsung statistic for the Indians was holding Mumford’s scoring guard scoreless as Ruben Sustaita didn’t record a point. The Mustangs would post just 18 points in the paint, and the Indians maintained a 36-23 rebounding advantage.
There was nothing fancy about the Indians’ victory – it was more of a slow demolition. A fact pointed out by Mumford’s coach to the team’s hometown newspaper, The Eagle.
“They are who we thought they were,” Mumford head coach Aubrie King said. “They were as good as advertised. They’re not real flashy. They’re not going to come out and blitz you. It’s just a slow burn.”
THE END RESULT
Very few teams can say they ran through 39 straight wins, but that didn’t change the pain when it came to dropping the season’s final game, even if it was against the defending state champions.
The Indians never found their stroke from behind the arc making only one of 13 attempts, and the Broncos limited their second-chance opportunities by pulling down 29 defensive boards. Clarendon would hold a 38-28 rebound advantage.
Tate Branson finished the day as Lipan’s leading scorer with 18 points that came off 7-of-16 shooting, while Garret Smith had 11 and Tripp Phillips added 10. Smith pulled down eight of Lipans’ 28 boards.
“I’m very proud of our seniors Cody Harwell, Zach Ross, Keaston McClure and Jadon Redwine. They are just prime examples of class acts. They are great young men. I have kids on the bench who are ball boys, and I love them being around these guys because they are great role models,” Gaylor said.
The two-time state champion coach had to pause and gather his emotions after the statement as the finality of the 2021-22 season started to take hold.