— By BRIAN SMITH
STEPHENVILLE — The adage “offense wins games, but defense wins championships” needs a third part to it: Free throws send you to Austin.
With Brock clinging to a 43-39 lead with 1:20 to go in Saturday’s Region 2-2A Final, it was the Eagles’ free throw shooting down the stretch, hitting 9 of 10 over the final 80 seconds, that enabled them to pull away and post a 52-42 win over fellow District 9-2A foe Ponder before 2,014 at Tarleton State University’s Wisdom Gym.
The Eagles (31-6) now move on to the state boys basketball tournament to play in a Friday semifinal at a time to be determined. It is Coach Jeff Bell’s fourth trip to the big dance in his 12 years at Brock.
“People don’t realize how hard it is to get to Austin, so we like to say we’re playing for those who couldn’t get there,” Bell said. “It never gets old, I’ll say that much.”
After Clay Morgan’s put back cut the Eagle lead to 43-39, Tré Ewell was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws to put Brock up six. Luke Hummel added a pair from the stripe for an eight-point lead.
Morgan converted from outside the arc with 36 seconds to go, but it would be as close as the Lions (30-10) would get. Ewell and Bailey Cockburn combined for the final points, all from the stripe.
The squads each won at home during the district slate. Bell said his Eagles brought their game with them.
“We played good team ball for four quarters today,” Bell said. “We played within ourselves and did what we had to do.”
Brock jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, holding Ponder without a shot and forcing four turnovers in the first three minutes. Ponder would tie the game at 20 before Micah Thornton’s free throws and Lance Ewell’s basket helped put Brock up 24-22 at the break.
Lane Southern and Ewell had buckets and Tré Ewell added his fourth three-pointer to put Brock up 34-26 late in the third. Brock put the lead back into double figures with a Hummel bucket midway through the fourth.
Tre Ewell paced Brock with 24 points with Lance Ewell addng nine. Morgan tossed in 20 to lead Ponder.
Brock 58, Chapel Hill 47
In Friday night’s semifinal, the Eagles withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally by a very game Red Devil squad, which cut a 17-point deficit down to seven with less than a minute left.
Brock led 49-32 on a pair of three pointers by Dylan Carrigan, who was scoreless through the first three quarters, with just under four minutes to go. Leading scorers Tré Ewell and Lance Ewell spent the bulk of the second half on the bench in foul trouble, which hurt the squad offensively in the eyes of Coach Jeff Bell.
“Our bench played very well late in the game. Guys like Luke (Hummel), Micah (Thornton and Dylan really stepped up because with the Ewells out, it hurts what we can do offensively,” Bell said.
Chapel Hill (27-7) clawed its way back into the fray, hitting six straight shots down the stretch to get within 54-47 with 50 seconds left. It was Tré Ewell that came through down the stretch with four free throws after the Red Devils were forced to foul. After hitting the six consecutive shots from the floor, Chapel Hill missed their last two.
The unranked visitors from Mount Pleasant gave Brock fits early. Three Lance Ewell buckets put Brock up 6-3 but Chapel Hill forced Brock into 25 percent shooting in the opening eight minutes to take a 9-8 lead after one.
Coming out of the timeout, Brock opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run, using three pointers by Tré Ewell and Luke Hummel and baskets by Thornton and Lance Ewell to take a 19-10 lead and force Chapel Hill Coach Ron Hanks to take a respite.
Tré Ewell, who was 9-9 at the free throw line for the game, hit three in a row to put the lead into double figures for the first time at 28-17 with 30 seconds left in the half. A three-pointer by Chapel Hill’s Caleb Gatlin at the buzzer cut the halftime deficit to 28-20.
Both Ewells were whistled for their third fouls midway through the third after the Eagles had soared to a 39-24 lead with help from a Lane Southern three and a Bailey Cockburn bucket. After shooting 41 percent in the first half, Brock used a 50 percent shooting frame from the floor to lead 41-27 heading into the final eight minutes.
Tre Ewell paced Brock with 20 points with Lance Ewell tossing in 13 and leading the team in rebounds with eight. Hummel had eight points, Carrigan seven, Southern five, Cockburn three and Thornton two.