RIESEL — When it gets a little crowded inside, might as well kick open the door and stretch your legs outside, right?
Hey, it worked for the Lorena Leopards.
No. 15 Lorena separated itself with its outside shooting to claim a 64-45 win over Riesel in an entertaining District 17-3A tussle Tuesday night at the Riesel High Gym.
The district-leading Leopards bottomed out seven first-half 3-pointers in gaining another game on second-place Riesel in the district standings. Lorena improved to 15-4 overall and 6-0 in the district, while Riesel dipped to 10-5 and 4-2.
Best thing about it for Lorena, it wasn’t like the Leopards were launching away willy-nilly. They made those shots by simply and efficiently executing their offense.
“We shot the ball a lot better than we have been,” Lorena coach Matt Jackson said. “I thought we had a good week of shooting the basketball. I think it’s a strength of ours. We didn’t see it against McGregor, but we saw it here. Seeing that ball go through the hoop gives you a lot of confidence on both ends.”
The burly Indians own nearly as much interior power as the town’s nearby power plant, and early in the game they used that to illuminate the scoreboard. Rugged big guys Kole Dieterich, Kyson Dieterich and Will McClintock bulled their way in the paint and muscled up buckets in the opening quarter to keep Riesel close. McClintock’s power move gave Riesel an early 11-10 lead, but Lorena swished back in front before the end of the quarter thanks to a pair of 3-point baskets from sophomore guard Keegan Rowell, including one to beat the clock. That pure jumper gave Lorena a 17-12 lead after one.
And it was a harbinger of arc splashes to follow. Riesel trailed just 19-16 early in the second quarter, and then Lorena exploded. Graham Goolsby knocked down treys on consecutive possessions. Rowell poked away a steal and shot downcourt for a layup. Perpetual motion machine McCray Lewis nailed a 3-pointer of his own, and later contributed a steal and difficult lefty lay in while avoiding an Indian defender. Such sharp plays fueled a 22-4 closing surge for Lorena, which took a comfortable 41-20 edge into intermission.
“They shot well tonight and they played super, super hard,” Riesel coach Daniel Cope said. “They’re a really good team, there’s a reason why they’re No. 14 in the state. I just felt like it was their night to shoot the basketball. Unfortunately they made more shots than we did. I told the guys we’re still sitting in a three-way tie for second place and we’ve still got aspirations and goals this year, and we’ve got to move past this one and get better, focus on the next opponent and go from there.”
At halftime, the Riesel student section engaged in a fun, impromptu game with the Lorena fans across the gym, tossing a mini basketball back and forth until the teams returned. However, the Leopard team wasn’t in the mood to share, and maintained its 20-point cushion throughout the second half, even if it wasn’t as smooth and efficient as it unfolded in the first two quarters.
Lorena demonstrated beautiful balance with five players scoring between eight and 12 points. George, the team’s unflappable floor general, topped the team with 12. Lewis added 11, Rowell had 10 and Goolsby scored nine. Six-foot-two senior post Tanner Bosley chipped in a hard-earned eight, and was a hero of sorts, given the way he scuffled and fought inside with Riesel’s bigger posts.
Lorena’s Jackson didn’t quite pull out the old “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight” line, but he might as well have.
“Just tell them battle. You’ve got to be tough,” Jackson said. “Those are really big (Riesel) kids, but toughness comes from the heart. I told them the toughest posts are going to win the game tonight. I thought we battled. When you’re undersized, you can’t be undersized in the heart, and I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight.”
McClintock displayed a soft touch to go with his power moves for Riesel, and led all scorers with 17 points. His jump hook was a McHale-esque thing of beauty. Kole Dieterich contributed 12 points for the Indians, who next play Whitney on Friday.
“Having that go-getter mindset that we’re going to go find a way to get the job done,” Riesel’s Cope said. “We’ve got some big games coming up, and our district has had some really close games. You’ve got three teams tied for second place, so there’s a lot of competition night in and night out. Just having that winner’s, competitor’s mentality. Doesn’t matter what night, what gym, that we’re going to find a way. That’s kind of what we talked about in the locker room.”
No. 19 La Vega 71, Robinson 48
Randy Woolf Jr. provided consistent effort and scoring throughout, finishing with 25 points as the 19th-ranked Pirates defused the Rockets in 18-4A action.
Woolf scored in every quarter, and finished strong with eight points in the fourth. Marcus Willis Jr. contributed 10 points for the district-leading Pirates (9-2, 3-0), while Jordan Rogers, A.J. Burns and Robert Allen had eight points apiece.
Jacob Jaro poured in 14 of his game-high 29 points for Robinson (8-9, 1-2) in the fourth quarter. Casen Mahan added 11 for the Rockets.
GIRLS No. 19 Lorena 46, Riesel 10
RIESEL — If the 2004 flick “Mean Girls” were remade as a basketball movie, the makers should consider the Lorena girls to star. Those Lady Leopards are perfectly nice off the court, but they play some mean defense.
Lorena harassed and frustrated the Lady Indians throughout to neutralize Riesel and improve to 16-5 overall on the season and an unblemished 8-0 in District 17-3A play. Rodney Gee’s team whizzed around defensively, cutting off passing lanes, contesting shots and forcing turnovers with regularity. The Lady Leopards are allowing only 26.3 points per game in district play, and held Riesel without a point for the first five-and-a-half minutes of the second half.
Offensively, Lorena was paced by Corbin Parnell, who scored 14 points, including a nifty behind-the-back move, pivot and score over two defenders that enlivened the Lorena bench in the third quarter. Ashlyn Wachtendorf tied for high-point honors with Parnell with 14 as well.
Lorena swept the season series from Riesel, as it won the opener, 79-19, on Dec. 18.
China Spring 44, Mexia 35
Senior post Brylee Smith’s 19 points helped the Lady Cougars to a hard-fought win over the visiting Ladycats in 18-4A action.
China Spring trailed 13-8 after one quarter, but rallied to seize a 21-19 advantage by the halftime break, and then stretched the lead in the third quarter. Mochieyveon Hobbs and Riley Shoots chipped in eight points apiece for the Lady Cougars (12-6, 4-1).
Jenny Williams dropped in 13 points and Michaiah Miller scored 11 for Mexia (10-5, 3-2).