Postseason dreams are now just a win away for the Lehman Lobos.
By virtue of a hard-fought 57-49 win over the Akins Eagles Tuesday, Lehman (16-14, 7-8) stayed one game ahead of Austin High and Del Valle for the last playoff spot in 25-6A.
Having surpassed one key hurdle, the Lobos now eye clinching the program’s first postseason berth in six seasons when they square off against Austin in Friday’s regular season finale. It’s a seminal moment for a program that’s gone from near the cellar in recent years to notching a record 16th victory and a guaranteed winning season.
“Considering where we came from and where we are now, I think we’ve done some good things,” said Lobo head coach Steven Pinchback.
Obtaining Tuesday’s win meant balancing gamesmanship with doing just enough at the right time, Pinchback said. Overcoming shooting struggles in the clutch paved the way for the Lobos to find success as well.
Pinchback said he opted for the Lobos to be “very vanilla” on offense, so as not to tip Austin High scouts in attendance.
Despite shooting woes, Pinchback said the Lobos stayed true to the game plan and were patient. Lobo senior guard Keevan Penson said focusing on defense and matching Akins’ physical play was equally a key element.
“Any advantage you get as you get closer to playoff time is an advantage you need,” Pinchback said. “I kept it very vanilla and I just thought we were the better team. We find a way.”
Lehman led 11-8 following a sluggish first quarter before building its lead to 23-18 at intermission.
However, a 14-8 run to start the third quarter allowed Akins to tie the game at 32-32. The Lobos countered with a crucial 7-2 run that spanned the final 108 seconds of the third period.
Lehman led 39-34 and had firm control of momentum. Improved shooting was contagious in the final quarter as Lehman finished by going 7 of 10 from the field. The Lobos shot 44 percent for the entire game.
Lobo junior Jarek Salinas, who scored all 11 of his points in the final two frames, said the team made sure every possession counted in the second half. Getting to the paint was how Penson tried to bypass shooting issues. Penson finished with 13 points in the game, while Lobo Oscar Montalvo led with a team-high 14 points.
“We went to the locker room (at halftime) and coach said we needed to turn up,” Penson said. “We needed to play as hard as we could and put them away, so we could focus on the next team.”
The mantra of taking things one game at a time comes to fruition Friday for the Lobos. Navigating through the highs and lows of the season is how Lehman has earned a chance at possibly reaching the playoffs, Pinchback said.
“We think things one game at a time,” Salinas said. “Now we have one more game and that’s the team we’re thinking about.”
Tipoff between Lehman and Austin is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at The Den.
25-6A Boys Basketball standings
Lake Travis 11-3
Del Valle 6-8
Lehman has a shot at the playoffs IF:
• They defeat Austin High Friday at home. Lehman would clinch a playoff berth by finishing a game ahead of Austin High and in a tie with Del Valle. Lobos hold the tiebreaker by sweeping Del Valle during the season.
• They lose to Austin High Friday, but have the Maroons drop their regular season finale AND have Del Valle lose at least one of its final two games on the season. Should that happen, Lehman and Austin could rematch in a play-in game to decide the final playoff spot.