SAN ANTONIO- The Childress Bobcats quest at the school’s first team state championship will have to wait for now.
The Bobcats chased and chased a very athletic and much bigger Hitchcock team but in the end the Bulldogs were too much to overcome pulling away for a 68-45 win to claim their first University Interscholastic League Class 3A state championship in front of 5,215 fans at the Alamodome.
The Bobcats end a fantastic season at 28-8 overall and before Saturday were one of the hottest teams in the state winning 14 in a row.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” said head coach Wayne Parker, who is 109-47 in five seasons at Childress. “I can’t say enough about the effort this team left on the floor. I can’t say enough about the community that showed up to support us. I’m just so proud of this team. It’s not fun losing but this was a great experience for us.”
The Bobcats got off to a great start. Parker and his team packed the paint knowing they were outsized, and it worked through the first five minutes of the contest as Childress held an early 10-4 advantage. Hitchcock (31-7) made a push to end the first going on an 8-0 run to go up 12-10. That was the start of many Bulldog runs that could have declawed the Bobcats. In the second quarter, Hitchcock made a 12-2 run and went up 28-20 at half. However, Childress was still hanging around. The Bobcats jumped out quick in the third quarter cutting the lead to four points, 30-26, and won the third 16-14 to only trail 42-36 after heading into the final frame.
“We knew Childress would be scrappy,” Hitchcock head coach Chrstopher Jordan-Foster said. “We knew they were not going to make it easy for us to not get a pass into the post. It took a little bit longer to get it inside, but we wanted a post to touch the ball every time we get down the floor. Even if we don’t score, just get a post to touch the ball.”
Eventually Jordan-Foster’s strategy wore down the Bobcats who had fought and scratched for three quarter. The Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter on a lightning quick 6-0 run giving Hitchcock its biggest lead at the time 48-36. From there, it was complete Bulldog domination as they ran away from Childress for the state title victory.
“That was a really good team we played,” Parker said. “We had to do all the little things to have a chance and we were doing that. We had some bad turnovers they scored on in transition and they capitalized on them. We played as hard as we could till the final buzzer and I couldn’t ask any more from these guys.”
Hitchcock used its size to win multiple battles outscoring Childress 42-22 in the paint and outrebounding the Bobcats 45-32. Another keynote is the Bulldogs forcing 19 turnovers turning those miscues into 19 points. Hitchcock point guard Damien McDaniel was the state MVP scoring 17 points with an impressive eight steals. Teammate Lloyd Jones junior scored a game-high 14 points and pulled down an incredible 21 boards.
Junior guard Aiden Allen scored a game-high 20 points to lead Childress on 7-of-19 shooting and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
Then there’s senior Lamont Nickleberry. The lone Childress senior. Nickleberry played 31 minutes before being subbed out in the final minute to a standing ovation from the Bobcat faithful in attendance. The speedy guard and one of the best to wear a Bobcat uniform, scored nine points with three steals in his final basketball game for the program.
“Being a Childress Bobcat means everything to me,” said Nickleberry, who played in 122 career games. “I hate it had to end it this way, but I couldn’t be more thankful to play with my teammates. I’m very thankful for the community support we’ve received. It’s been amazing and now it’s time for the next chapter.”
Parker echoed Nickleberry’s sentiments.
“We can’t ever replace what Lamont has done for this program,” Parker said. “He has stepped up big in how he plays and the leader he is. He handles himself on the court, on the field or in the classroom in the right manner. He shows everyone what it’s like to be a champion and be great at something.”