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.