GAME-WINNING PRAYER

POTEET—Chris Rodriguez’s prayers were answered.

The Poteet junior guard knocked down an off-balanced floater after an offensive rebound with seconds remaining to give the Aggies a thrilling 43-41 win over rival Pleasanton in front of a boisterous crowd Jan. 31 at Poteet High School.

“The team just trusted me to make a good shot, and I sank it,” said Rodriguez, whose lone points came on the game-winner. “I just trusted it. I hoped. I was believing. I just prayed right there, honestly. But the team did good. We fought hard for this win.”

A pair of Julio Martinez free throws for the Eagles set up the dramatic finish, tying the game at 41 after a furious comeback. Pleasanton trailed 40-32—its biggest deficit of the game—with less than three minutes left before rattling off a 9-1 run that included two buckets by Claven Maxwell.

It was the second time in a week Poteet held off a District 30-4A foe’s rally on its home floor. The Aggies (2-3 district) edged Cuero 50-47 on Jan. 24 for its first district win of the season.

“Tonight I thought the kids were real confident because the way we started the game,” Poteet coach Jimmy Littleton said. “We didn’t have the 10, 12, 15 turnovers that we have in the past going into halftime…I thought we held our composure.”

The game’s final sequence also exemplified a key part of the Aggies’ victory. The rebounding advantage in the game was critical, Littleton said.

“I thought we rebounded the best we have probably all year,” he said, “because they have two guys—[Dalton Hobbs and Maxwell]—who really crash the boards extremely hard.”

The Eagles (2-3) raced out of the gates, scoring the first seven points of the game en route to an early 10-2 lead. Jarik Garcia, who led Pleasanton with 11 points, hit two 3-pointers during the run.

“[Pleasanton] made two or three 3s right off the bat, and they were 24, 25 feet out there,” Littleton said. “Our kids really showed a lot of resiliency and kept coming. Normally we would say ‘oh, heck,’ and they get down on themselves. They didn’t get down on themselves tonight…I’m just proud of them. I think we’re coming along. It’s at the end of the year when you really want to come along.”

Poteet took its first lead of the game on Alfonso Peña’s jumper with 4:53 in the second quarter. The Aggies did not trail the rest of the way. Moses Guerra led Poteet with 17 points and 17 rebounds.

The Eagles were without the services of two injured players: Quentin Alvarado and John Lopez. Lopez went for 14 points in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 13, a 66-51 Eagles win.

“We had to change some stuff around,” Pleasanton coach Ricardo Marquez said of his lineup. “We did add about three new faces from the subvarsity, so we had to get them going. They did a good job for the most part. We just came up a little short tonight. We just didn’t hit some shots that we could’ve hit, and it could’ve gone either way.”

The result put Poteet in position to fight for the district’s third playoff spot, something Littleton said is the goal at this point. For Rodriguez, the win shows the Aggies are heading in the right direction.

“We put a lot of hard work in, and coach Littleton has been a heck of a coach,” Rodriguez said. “We just listened to him and executed and got the ‘W’ today.”

The victory also meant a little more coming against the Eagles.

“It was a good, hard-fought game,” Rodriguez said. “We always compete against Pleasanton. They’re seven minutes away, so we always have to beat them or else [we hear] talking. We fought out there. We did good, and now we’re in the playoffs.”

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