Making their season debut Tuesday afternoon, the Early Longhorns chalked up a 65-58 road victory over the Brownwood Lions, who suffered their fourth consecutive setback to start the season.
The Lions trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, 23-12, rallied and led 51-50 as late as the 5:06 mark of the fourth quarter. But midway through the final period, in a 54-all tie, Early’s Kamden Gamblin drained back-to-back three-pointers to stake the Longhorns to a 60-54 edge with 3:32 remaining, and Brownwood never recovered.
“Our shooting is as good as it’s been since I’ve been in this program,” said Early head coach Eric Davis. “We have some really good shooters and I think that’s going to be our calling card, shooting the ball well. It’s been nice to see the guys’ hard work throughout the summer pay off.”
Gamblin finished with a team-high 25 points and converted five of the Longhorns’ nine three-pointers. Andrew Caten added 16 points for Early trailed by Will Prochaska with eight, John Hill with six, Weston Barton and Rohyn Price with three apiece, and Jacob McDaniel and Dalton Adams with two points each.
Leading 10-9 after one quarter, the Lions dug a double-digit hole for themselves in the second period due in part to 11 turnovers in the quarter, a total of 17 in the opening half, and 26 in the game.
“We had some empty possessions in the first half where we came down and just threw it away or didn’t really get a good look,” said Lions head coach Will Parker. “That hurts us and while you can’t win a game in the first half, you can lose it in the first half. We did a good job of bouncing back and getting back in the game but we have to come out in the first half and be more crisp and play the way we want to play.”
Brownwood rallied behind the hot hand of Casey Friebel, who scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, Friebel also knocked down seven of the Lions’ 10 three-pointers.
Gage Sparks tacked on a dozen points for the Lions followed by Joel Holguin with six, Hayden Proffitt and Noah Pyle with four apiece and Austin Pittman with three points.
“We learned a lot,” Parker said. “We haven’t played against a zone all year so we were a little rusty against it. I like playing Early because they’re real scrappy and really get after it. They set us up to play teams like Graham that we’ll face in district. It’s a cross town rivalry but to me it’s a good basketball game and some good experience for our guys. We have one senior and a lot of younger guys who are getting a lot of experience so I’m pretty pumped about it.”
The Lions (0-4) resume action Tuesday, Nov. 28 at Jim Ned while the next game for the Longhorns (1-0) is the same date at Clyde.
“I want to see them come back after the break with the same intensity and not get frustrated with what’s happening on the court, whether it’s fouls or missing shots,” Parker said. “That’s what I hope we continue to get better at.”
Davis added, “The energy and effort were good but we were a little sloppy. We have to be more cognoscente of our defensive rotations and make sure we know where the opposing shooters are. Both teams are still trying to find themselves a little bit. They don’t have all their football guys and our guys just got here and are trying to find their way a little bit. We’re trying to learn how to play together.”