SAN ANTONIO- A huge second quarter was the difference as the Childress Bobcats earned a lopsided 69-48 win over Lytle in the University Interscholastic League Class 3A state semifinals in front of 4,981 fans at San Antonio’s Alamodome on Thursday afternoon.
The win for Childress is a historic one as the Bobcats will now play for the school’s first ever boys state basketball championship since World War II with the year being 1944.
“It’s exciting,” Childress head coach Wayne Parker said. “As athletic minded as Childress is we haven’t won a team state championship and that’s motivating for us. Childress has a lot of pride and a lot of tradition, so we want to go out and make that happen.”
The Bobcats (28-7 overall) run their win streak to 14 straight games and will now take on Hitchcock in the Class 3A state championship at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Bulldogs (30-7) bullied Hooks 69-36 in the other state semifinal Thursday.
Things took a big momentum turn for Childress in the first quarter. Lytle’s 6-foot-5 standout forward Jordan Balderaz, who averaged 25 points and 12 boards entering the game, picked up three quick fouls in the first five minutes. With Balderaz on the bench, the Bobcats defense took over and the offense got going. However, it was the second quarter where Balderaz absence hurt Lytle. Childress exploded on a 12-0 run and outscored Lytle 20-5 in that eight-minute stretch with a fast-paced offense and transition defense. The Bobcats were able to hold the Pirates to 4-of-23 from the floor in the first half and outrebounded Lytle 27-15. Balderaz had to watch from the sideline without a single point.
“I’m going to be honest,” Lytle head coach Jacob Hernandez said. “We all saw how the first half went. The best player on the court was in foul trouble and it was a totally different ballgame from there. If Jordan is in the entire time, it’s a different outcome.”
Despite the three fouls in the first half Hernandez had thoughts of putting his star player back in as Childress was pulling away, but decided it wasn’t the best move.
“I had gambled with the second foul and then the third foul If I go look at the tape, I don’t think it was a foul,” Hernandez said. “There was a bunch of contact going both ways. When it started getting out of hand in the second quarter I thought about it, but if he got four fouls, then he’s sitting in the third. I couldn’t do that to him.”
In the third quarter Childress answered anytime Lytle wanted to make a run. The Pirates would cut it to 17, Lamont Nickleberry would knock down a 3-pointer to push it back to 20. That was a trend the entire second half.
“It felt like we never got discouraged,” Nickleberry said. “Even when they made a run at us in the third, we never let up. We always responded and came out with a win.”
Nickleberry was flat out dominant doing everything for Childress in this victory. The senior and Trinity University football signee scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting, grabbed 11 boards for a double-double, added five assists and was relentless on defense with three steals.
“Lamont is a special athlete,” Parker said. “He always torches are scout team, and we can’t duplicate what he does. He’s so quick and so smooth and we’re super excited with all that he’s accomplished. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
Nickleberry was one of four players in double figures. Teammate Aiden Allen scored 16 points with 10 rebounds for a double-double, Billy Moore was big time with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting and Isaiah Jalamo chipped in 10 points.
“We rebounded really well,” said Parker, whose team shot 49.2 percent for the game and outrebounded Lytle 43-28. “We played hard and aggressive. We took care of the ball enough and it was a great team effort.”
For full game stats from the Bobcats win against Lytle, please visit: https://www.uiltexas.org/files/athletics/state-basketball/boxscores-boys/23bb3as2.htm