Look closely at the jersey of Lehman Lobo Marcos Cantu and one might see a heroes costume underneath.
Days after hitting a game-winning buzzer-beater, Cantu Friday came off of the bench and tallied 13 critical fourth quarter points that propelled Lehman to a 51-43 road win over the rival Hays Rebels at Bales Gym.
While playing the role of hero is one Cantu is happy to take on, helping push Lehman that much closer to a possible playoff berth was perhaps a little more meaningful.
“We want to be 1-0 every game and win every game that we can to put us in the best position to make the playoffs,” Cantu said.
Lehman (15-12, 6-6 in district) overcame third quarter shooting struggles to outscore Hays 23-12 in the final frame. The Lobos trailed by three-points heading into the fourth quarter, but kick started their rally with a 7-0 run to take a 35-31 advantage.
Cantu, who finished with a game-high 18 points, said he knew the Lobos had been playing slow for most of the game and felt they needed to attack the bucket. Lobo head coach Steven Pinchback challenged his players to impose their will, which he felt they did.
Once Lehman got the lead in hand, Pinchback said they focused on stepping on the gas and controlling the tempo of play. Playing physical and making every possession count was also a key factor as well, Pinchback said.
“If you’re not getting dirty or getting on the ground trying to get the ball, someone wants the ball more than you,” Pinchback said. “I told the guys if they are the hungriest team, all of the intangibles will take care of themselves.”
Meanwhile, Hays (14-15, 3-9 in district play) consistently struggled on the offensive end for most of the contest. The Rebels’ lone bright spot came in the third quarter when they overcame a nine-point deficit to take a 31-28 lead. Aiding that effort was Carlos Rocha, who scored eight of his team-high ten points in the third quarter.
Matt Sandoval, Rebel head coach, said the solution was as easy as hitting their shots. It was a principle that was easier said than done as Hays was unable to capitalize on a handful of point-blank layups and buckets in the first half.
Lehman led Hays 17-10 at intermission with the Rebels missing out on as many as ten points in the quarter, Sandoval said.
“Against any team, if you miss easy baskets, they will come back to haunt you,” Sandoval said. “That’s what happened.”
While Lehman also struggled on offense in the first half, success in crashing the boards kept the Lobo lead intact. Lehman senior Cameron Jones said boxing out proved pivotal in out-rebounding the Rebels.
Lehman out-rebounded Hays 33-22, with Jones leading all players with 11 boards. Jones scored a double-double by also finishing with 10 points on the night.
“We just kept shooting the ball,” Jones said. “Eventually the ball was going to go in the hole.”
A chance to make history is now on the table for the Lobos. With a win Tuesday, Lehman will finish with the most victories in a single season in school history. Win out the remainder of their games and Lehman is expected to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Pinchback said he has tried to instill a playoff-mentality among his players as the season is winding down.
“It’s win or go home and they’re buying in. They saw what it takes and they executed down the stretch,” Pinchback said.