CORSICANA – The Palestine Wildcats were on the cusp of returning to the Regional round for the first time in five years Friday night.
With less than three seconds on the clock the Palestine held a 51-50 lead after Life Waxahachie scored a layup to reduce their deficit.
De'Marius Sessions went to inbound the ball to Enoch Fatade who had a Waxahachie defender barreling down his back. The ball bounced past Fatade into the waiting arms of Mustangs' guard Gage Mayfield.
Mayfield immediately leaped towards the rim as the entire Palestine side watched the ball fall through the net. With time running down, Fatade heaved a pass to Quinton Cook at half-court for a chance at some last-second heroics.
It missed. Plunging off the right side of the backboard as an emotional Wildcats team walked off the court stunned at their missed opportunity.
The game's intensity was felt from the start. The Wildcats overcame a 30-25 halftime deficit before erasing a small fourth-quarter Mustangs' lead.
Palestine trailed 41-36 entering the final quarter. Eric Carthen found cook on a savvy bounce pass to reduce the deficit to three.
Cook continued to assert his presence in the pant on their next possession with a tough contest layup. Palestine's maintained a tough presence on the opposite end of the floor.
Unfortunately, an offensive foul on Palestine gave the Mustangs their first points of the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws.
It wasn't long before the Wildcats had their three-point deficit erased. A free throw form Sessions followed by a steal and breakaway layup for Carthen sat the score at 43-43 with four minutes left in the game.
Palestine had a chance to take their first lead of the second half before Cook was called for an offensive charge as he glided towards the rim.
Life Waxahachie didn't waste their opportunity as Vernon Johnson split his free throws at the line. His second shot clanged off the rim, but was recovered by a Mustangs player and put back up for a layup.
Palestine responded quickly with basket of their own. Waxahachie seemingly had the calls in the favor in the waining minutes as another foul call sent them back to the line.
Down 47-45, Fatade drove hard to the basket and tied the ball game back up at 47-all.
His impact didn't end there as he drew a charge on the opposite end. With the momentum quickly rising in Palestine's favor, the Mustangs burned a timeout.
Fresh out of the pause in action, Fatade drove to the basket again, but was called for a charge which sent Waxahachie back to the line.
Mayfield missed both attempts as the Wildcats raced back down court. Carthen finally gave Palestine the lead on a crafty finish at the rim with 27 seconds remaining.
Another defensive stop for Palestine forced Waxahachie to foul and sent Fatade to the line where he made both free throws to put them up 51-48.
The Mustangs immediately flashed down court for a quick layup to cut it to 51-50.