FLOWER MOUND — Pilot Point had won five straight games decided by single digits entering their second-round playoff game against Dallas Life Oak Cliff on Friday at Flower Mound Marcus.
After a game with two technical fouls, 18 made 3-pointers and countless lead changes, that streak continued as the Bearcats defeated the Lions 56-49.
While one streak continued, an equally meaningful one came to an end with the win. Pilot Point (20-13) has now reached the third round for the first time since 2001, breaking an 18-year drought. The Bearcats accomplish this feat after barely sneaking into the playoffs as the fourth seed from District 9-3A.
“It means a lot, especially with where we were three weeks ago,” Pilot Point coach Jeff Price said. “We were so close, and the kids easily could have abandoned what was going on [at that time], but the locker room just knew we were going to turn that corner. Then one win led to two, two turned to three, and for these guys to get to the third round, I’m just so proud of them.”
After going 3-5 in January, Pilot Point is now 6-0 in February. That resilience showed time after time Friday late in quarters.
Price’s team had a 5-0 run in the second quarter, a 11-2 run in the third and a 7-0 run in the fourth to push ahead of the Lions. The final run ended with 1:12 remaining in the contest, when Pilot Point once again worked the lengthy Life Oak Cliff 1-3-1 zone and found senior Mason Sheppard in the corner. Sheppard knocked down the huge 3-pointer to give the Bearcats a lead they would not relinquish.
Sheppard had 15 points on five 3-pointers and was right behind Javon Bruce, who led the Bearcats with 17 points.
“We tell Mason to keep shooting because you never know when he’s going to hit his next three,” Price said. “He was rushing early because they were so fast, but we got him some good looks in the second half, and he hit them.”
Sheppard was not alone in taking time to adjust to the speed and size of the Lions as Pilot Point had a turnover-filled first half before finally settling in. The game got more physical as it progressed, and players eventually had to be separated, resulting in double technicals in the fourth quarter. Price said it simply was neither team wanting to give an inch.
“This is a big building block for our program,” Price said. “We’ve gotten to the second round a couple times but haven’t been able to bust through, so I’m just so proud of the kids, [they] don’t panic anymore in close games.”
Pilot Point 56, Dallas Life Oak Cliff 49
Life Oak Cliff
Pilot Point -- Javon Bruce 17, Mason Sheppard 15, Jacob Pitts 12, Aydon Cox 8, Javin Bruce 4.
Dallas Life Oak Cliff -- Braylon Lacy 18, Isaiah Alexander 17, Zaques Gibson 4, Chris Young 3, Javeon Jackson 3, Joseph Ricks 2, Derrick Jimmerson 2.