Grace Prep’s Brandon Lawrence sends title game to OT
It looked as if The Woodlands Christian was going to have Grace Prep’s number for the second-straight year. The Lions trailed by five with 1:30 to go during the TAPPS 4A state title game at West High School on Friday.
TWC won a double-overtime classic, 79-76, to win the state championship last year.
But the Lions never gave up. They tied it with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on a Brandon Lawrence 3-pointer and went on to win in overtime, 58-54, for their first title since 2012.
“I am so grateful. To work as hard as they did and come out on top, it’s very fulfilling,” coach Richie Alfred said. “We were looking for Evan McCarthy, but The Woodlands did a great job defending it. Brandon did a phenomenal job at creating space and to give himself an opportunity. He hit a big shot.”
Alfred was very thankful for his team following the game. It was his first state title in his 31 years as a head coach.
“It’s a very special group of kids and they gave this old coach a gift,” he said. “They carried me and that was part of the thrill. We had a lot of great kids that put it all together and ended up being a great team.”
Evan McCarthy scored a team-high 19 points and added four assists, three steals and three 3-pointers. Myles McCrary added 16 points and seven boards before fouling out late in regulation.
Lundyn Ellison picked up a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Lawrence chipped in 10 points, five boards and five assists. All four players were named to the state all-tournament team.
“Ellison was huge for us in overtime,” Alfred said. “In the locker room, I told them thank you and that they made this happen. They all stepped up at the right time. They never stopped fighting.”
The Lions (35-2), the No. 1 ranked TAPPS 4A team in the state, led by four at intermission, but the Warriors (29-11) came out on fire. Grace Prep found itself trailing for most of the second half.
The Warriors led by seven with three minutes left and by five with 90 seconds on the clock. The Lions had a chance to take the lead three different times inside 45 seconds, but missed all three attempts.
Grace Prep cut the lead to one and the Warriors made both free throws to play with 12 seconds remaining.
“I told them in the huddle that we came here to fight for 32 minutes and they fought to the finish,” Alfred said. “I think the win says a lot about the character of our players. We focus on defense, but we also score quickly. I was expecting a run, but it never came. We just couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm all night. But for an old coach like me, to win it on defense and rebounding, it was thrill.”
What made the win even more special for Alfred was that it was the Grace Prep’s fourth state championship this school year. He’s also the athletic director.
“This year has been great for Grace Prep athletics. With the new gym opening last year and our basketball and volleyball teams being so close to state, this year was highly anticipated,” Molly Davis said. “Bonnie and I kicked it off in June and we’ve had three state victories since then. It’s all very exciting. Our seniors are definitely going out with a bang.”
“I have so much pride for the whole athletic program,” Alfred added. “Even football and girls basketball went to regional finals. It’s just a fine time to be the AD at Grace Prep. We have tremendous support from the fans, administration and community. It’s really a cool time to be here, it’s an awesome school and I’m proud to be apart of it.”