The No. 6-ranked McMullen County Cowboys were dealt just their second loss of the season.
The Cowboys (17-2, 2-1) fell 88-85 to No. 16-ranked San Perlita (9-9, 3-0) in overtime on Tuesday, Jan. 19. McMullen County led by as many as 15 points in the game and held a 41-29 lead at halftime. Shawn Heritage even had the game-tying shot to force the extra period.
“Tonight was a tough loss for us,” said first-year Head Coach Jeremy Mills. “It puts our backs against the wall where we have to bounce back and beat those guys at their place, not to mention taking care of business against all the other [District 32-1A] opponents.”
It was simply a game of runs between the two ranked teams.
The Cowboys had a red-hot start in the first quarter with Troy Allen spurring an 11-0 run over the first two minutes before
the Trojans clawed back on a 16-5 run on the back of six three-pointers in the first half. San Perlita countered the Cowboys in the third quarter with a 16-7 run to make it a one-point game with 2:25 left in the quarter. The Trojans hit nine shots from the field to eventually outscore the Cowboys 23-13 in the third quarter and trail 54-52 entering the fourth quarter.
“From [halftime] through the fourth quarter, it felt like a one-possession game, two or three points,” Mills said. “I mean, great game. We hit the big shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.”
The fourth quarter featured three lead changes. The Cowboys led by as many as six points with 3:25 left in the game.
From that point on, San Perlita went on an 11-4 run to take a 77-74 lead with 16 seconds left. Helping San Perlita’s comeback were mistakes from the Cowboys, including a technical foul on Sam Giovengo while up six points.
“We made some silly mistakes late in the game that we just have to learn from,” Mills said. “We can’t have those and win a good, tough game like that one.”
With time winding down, the Cowboys needed a three-pointer. Heritage’s first attempt from the left corner with four seconds hit off the rim and out, but right into the hands of Rudy Mesa, who kicked it back to Heritage. His second attempt went flush through the basket to force overtime.
Mesa’s awareness with the offensive rebound was not something you’d expect from a sophomore at a critical point in a game.
“What made that play more impressive was [Shawn] missed the first shot … and Rudy got the rebound,” Mills said. “Most young players would’ve just put it back up, but we were down three with just one second. He gets that rebound and kicks it back out to Shawn, who makes it. So, the fact Rudy was able to get the offensive rebound, make the decision to pass it out and not score for himself, and the fact he knew the score, was huge. It was our play of the game.”
In overtime, McMullen County led 85-84 with 55 seconds left. On a turnover, Troy Allen fouled San Perlita and sent them to the free throw line. The Trojans made both free throws to take an 86-85 lead with 15 seconds left in the game.
The key to bouncing back for the young Cowboys, a team that features no seniors, is learning from their mistakes to be able to win big games like that in the future.
“If we learn from it, take accountability for the mistakes we made, then it’s good for the future,” Mills said. “But if we continue to make these kinds of mistakes and don’t learn from it, then it’s not as valuable to us.”
The Cowboys travel to San Isidro on Tuesday before hosting Bruni on Jan. 29.