HALTOM CITY -- Arlington Martin put its stamp on the Whataburger Tournament's Orange Division on Friday, a day after recording its season's signature victory.
Less than 24 hours after upsetting one of the state's top-ranked teams, the Warriors advanced to the semifinals by busting one of Kentucky's finest basketball blends, Bullitt East, in a 46-42 come-from-behind victory that set Thomas Coliseum abuzz.
Martin overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and not-so-great shooting to crash the Whataburger party.
Who do these guys think they are? Grinders with a lot of want-to, that's who.
In two games as an underdog, Martin converted big possessions and got timely defensive stops.
"We have great team chemistry right now," said Nick Babb, a 6-foot-5 junior guard who scored a team-leading 11 points, including two free throws in the final seconds to ensure that Myles Garrett's two-handed slam -- off Shawn Hammer's pass -- stood up as the game-winner.
"We knew they would be tough to make a run against," Babb continued. "Everybody knew we had to do it together."
The run for Martin's magicians came to an end in Friday night's semifinals when they lost 57-43 to Long Beach Poly, California's top-ranked team and among the best in squads in the nation. Poly led by as much as 20 before Martin pulled within nine points with two minutes to play.
Poly nailed down a spot in the coveted Whataburger final at 8:15 tonight opposite of Plano East -- a 61-55 winner over Richardson Berkner in the other semifinal played between state-ranked teams.
One of those powers will become the 55th tournament champion.
The Warriors' upset specials, which included toppling Rowlett, No. 3 in Texas Class 5A, aren't welcome news for their rivals in a District 3-5A that already includes state-ranked North Crowley and Arlington Bowie.
"They just never quit," Martin coach Jeff Plemons said. "They kept fighting and kept defending. When you do that, good things happen for you."
In a tale of two halves, North Crowley got it half right in a 66-64 loss to Richardson Berkner in the quarterfinals.
After what North Crowley coaches termed a dreadful first half in which the Panthers fell for the wrong kind of holiday turnover and down behind 15 points, players stormed out of the locker room and scored the first 10 points of the third quarter.
It ultimately wasn't enough. Soma Edo's tip-in with five seconds left sent the Rams to the semifinals.
"I told them to act like they deserve something," coach Tommy Brakel said of his halftime address to players. "To compete well at this level you have to earn it."
North Crowley faces Duncanville, which fell to Plano West in the quarterfinals, in a fifth-place game at 12:30 p.m. today.
0Points scored by Bullitt East star Derek Willis in the fourth quarter against Martin after sustaining an apparent ankle injury. He did return to play. He had 15 points through three quarters.
25Scoring average in two games for Jeffrey Carroll of Rowlett, tops in the tournament.
25-10Long Beach Poly's advantage against Spring Westfield in the last 12 minutes, fourth quarter and OT of a 53-49 quarterfinals victory.
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