Highlanders Win Big in First Round of Playoffs
THE WOODLANDS -- The game of high school basketball normally takes 32 minutes to complete.
But Tuesday night’s Region II-5A playoff game between The Woodlands Highlanders and Klein Bearkats was over in about 30 seconds.
Wes Cole, after missing his first eight 3-pointers, a layup and two free throws, hit three triples in the span of 30 seconds to turn a half-court slugfest into an easy 69-37 victory for the District 14-5A-champion Highlanders at College Park High School.
By the time the second-half onslaught was over, the 3-point happy Highlanders (26-5) had buried 10 triples and coasted into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Cole, who has unlimited range, hit five-of-his last six 3-pointers and finished the contest with 19 points -- all of them coming in an electric second half.
“That really got us going,’’ The Woodlands head coach Dale Reed said of Cole’s second-half explosion. “Klein is so methodical when they have the lead or are close.’’
It was a credit to Reed for leaving Cole in the game during his struggles, and Cole for having the self-confidence to shoot himself out of one of his worst shooting nights of the season.
“Wes has a ton of self-confidence,’’ Reed said. “But that is what a shooter has to have. You have to believe your next shot is going in.’’
The Woodlands, which led 20-15 at halftime, was nursing a slim 26-21 lead with 2:47 left in the third when Cole hit his first 3-pointer from the right corner.
He followed with another bomb from the top of the key, then stole the ball at halfcourt and pulled up for his third straight triple from more than three feet in back of the 3-point line.
By the time Klein called timeout, it was 35-21 and the game was all but over.
“When he hit that first one, we just kind of exploded,’’ Reed said. “But the thing I am most proud of him for is that even when he wasn’t making shots, he was doing other things to help the team. He did a good job on the boards and played good defense.’’
The Woodlands, which has hit at least 10 3-pointers in a game five times this season, finished with eight 3-pointers in the second half as Jackson Nelson also hit a pair of triples and Justin Nelson added one.
Jordan Alpha and Justin Nelson hit 3-pointers in a first half that saw The Woodlands fall behind 7-1 and trail 11-10 at the end of the first eight minutes of play.
“We weathered the storm early,’’ Reed said. “Then, we got to playing solid defense. The shots finally started falling (in the second half).’’
Klein, which ended the season 18-14, was content to pass the ball around the perimeter, then pound it in to 6-foot-4 post Chris Loving.
Loving responded with nine points in the first quarter, but The Woodlands started rotating its zone faster to put two men on the talented post every time he touched the ball. He finished the game with 12 points.
Jackson Nelson had 12 points and Davis Tucker added 11 for The Woodlands, who will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between Cy Creek and Georgetown in the second round of the playoffs on Friday.
The Cy Creek-Georgetown game was postponed on Tuesday due to bad weather.
“Our whole goal this year is to advance,’’ said Reed, who last won a playoff game when The Woodlands beat Bryan in the first round in 2006. “We weren’t satisfied just being one of the best 64 teams. But it is going to get tougher every time we step on the floor now.’’