By JUSTIN RAINS
LUFKIN — Palestine senior Shumauri Scott isn’t so sure that his head coach can’t see into the future.
Why? Simple. He said PHS boys’ basketball coach Bret Botard told his team before the game how proud he was of them, because he knew that the team would be so excited after winning the game.
That premonition proved right, as Scott and Jarrell Owens led a big Palestine inside presence in a 61-48 win over Jasper here Tuesday at Shands Gymnasium on the campus of Angelina College.
“Coming from where we came from, this feels great,” Scott said. “I think coach is a psychic…we weren’t going to make coach a liar.”
With the win, Palestine moves on to face Robinson in the area round. That game is set for either 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Friday at Corsicana High School.
It’s the first playoff win for a Palestine boys’ basketball team since 2005.
The Wildcats turned what had been a close, physical game from the get-go into a comfortable victory at around the two-minute mark in the third quarter.
That’s when the Wildcats started a 6-0 run, capped by two Sheldon Watson free throws that gave Palestine a 44-39 lead — its biggest of the game — heading into the fourth quarter.
The run didn’t stop there.
Palestine continued it into the fourth, when they started the frame 9-1 run that lasted more than halfway into the fourth quarter.
A lot of that run for Palestine came on second or even third chances, chances created by offensive rebounds by Scott and, even more so, Owens.
“I called the out at halftime and said we needed to rebound the basketball, and that starts with bigs,” Botard said. “That was the key to ballgame.”
Owens scored four points in the run, and grabbed two offensive rebounds on a possession that saw Tony Butler finish with an up-and-under to extend Palestine’s lead to 49-40.
Owens finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Ben Luckett had a team-high 13 and Scott added 11 and 10 rebounds.
Butler also had four points in the run, part of his 10 points.
That run jumped Palestine’s lead out to 53-40 before Jasper’s DeMarcus Collins hit a three-pointer to cut it to single-digits once again. But, Jasper could never get any closer.
Scott gave a lot of credit to the Palestine fan section after the game, a section that made Shands Gym a loud, playoff-worthy venue from the opening tip on.
“They were real important,” Scott said. “They kept us in the game and, in times when we felt down, they picked us back up with chants and stuff.”
After the win, Botard ventured all the way across the court to pump up the crowd before talking with his team after the game.
“I’m so proud of these kids. I can’t put into words how proud I am of these kids,” Botard said. “We fought so hard and we talked in the locker room about how if we could come out and defend and rebound and they took exactly what we said (and executed).
That was the best half of basketball we’ve played all year and that’s what team’s have to do in the playoffs.”
Donavan Middleton led Jasper with 13 points, and Malik Smith had 10 and Dranzell Haynes had nine points and team-high six rebounds.