Friday night’s District 3-5A matchup between Fort Worth Paschal and North Crowley was more street-ball exhibition than high school district game.
As a public address announcer gave constant play-by-play through the game, the standing-room-only crowd that packed into the tiny gym on the campus of Paschal High School flowed off the bleacher seats and onto the floor, leaving inches between the sideline and playing surface.
Thanks, in part, to Paschal’s “sixth man,” the Panthers punched their ticket to the playoffs for the first time in six years with a 63-48 win over North Crowley.
Those fans that managed to obtain a ticket and weren’t turned away by Fort Worth police officers created a near deafening noise that boosted Paschal (18-9, 8-5 District 3-5A) to an early 17-9 lead after a quarter of play.
Defense became offense as the quarter drew to a close and Paschal senior guard Xavier Mayes became the closer, scoring six straight points on breakaways.
Mayes finished with 15 points, most of which came slashing through the paint and finishing acrobatic layups.
A steady stream of 3-pointers from North Crowley (14-12, 6-7 3-5A) pulled the score closer in the second quarter as the blue-and-white-clad Panthers made four from behind the arc in the second quarter.
In the fourth, Crowley took advantage of an overaggressive Paschal squad playing off the energy of the stands and pulled even for the first time at 44-44 with just under six minutes to play.
“We said slow down,” Paschal coach David Watson said. “The last time when we were at North Crowley, we allowed them to get back into the game because we started playing fast, because that’s their brand of basketball. This time we talked over and over again about slowing down and playing Paschal basketball. We can’t win playing North Crowley basketball, but we have a chance playing Paschal basketball.”
Under a more controlled pace, Paschal sophomore guard Tyrik Price buried the dagger on a 3-pointer with three minutes left in the game.
“It was a big shot. He hadn’t really been knocking down open shots all game long, but he picked a great time to knock one down,” Watson said.
“Once he hit that shot, I knew it was game time and time to end the game,” Mayes said.
Thomas finished with a game-high 18 points, followed closely by North Crowley junior guard Tommy Sing with 17 points.
Paschal closed the game out making 11 of 13 from the free throw line, creating a much bigger deficit than the game play actually dictated. In Paschal’s 54-53 loss to North Crowley earlier in the season, Watson’s team went just 1-for-5 in the closing minutes of the game to allow North Crowley the chance to win.
As the buzzer sounded marking Paschal’s fourth playoff berth in the past 16 years and fans spilled onto the court, one simple thought resonated in Mayes’ mind.
“Playoffs, baby. We’re in.”
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