HS Boys Basketball: Grizzlies Win Epic Comeback Affair Against the Highlanders

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 01/19/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The Woodlands Highlanders (14-11) fell after a sensational 54-53 comeback effort from the Grand Oaks Grizzlies (17-14) secured a last-second road victory.

The teams engaged in a nail-biting matchup earlier in the season at Grand Oaks, where the Grizzlies managed to hang on for a one-point victory.

Clear lessons were taken from the earlier season game, as the Highlanders opened up Friday night’s meeting with lights-out scoring from the floor.

Only three Highlanders recorded points in the opening eight minutes, but the contributions from Ty Sheldon, Lucas Hwang, and Jesus Carmona propelled The Woodlands to a commanding first-quarter lead.

Meanwhile, Grand Oaks struggled to find traction on either side of the ball in the early going. Miscues and turnovers on offense gave up easy baskets for the Highlanders, while the defense struggled to keep up with the proficient shooting from The Woodlands.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Grand Oaks Head Coach Michael Day broke down the issues his team was experiencing to start the game.

“We were not the aggressors,” said Day. “Our guys didn’t play with a lot of intensity on the defensive end, and we were too wild on offense.”

The same issues of sloppy offense and lapsing defense continued to plague the Grizzlies in the second quarter.

More points from behind the arch kept The Woodlands’ lead growing in steady increments during the second. A greater volume of shots rained down from the Highlanders, who had five players hit three-point shots during the first half.

Additional help came due to a lack of efficient scoring from Grand Oaks’ half. Hastily shot threes missed their mark, and a general lack of shots from the field handicapped the Grizzlies going into the half. Only two shots from the entire field fell for Grand Oaks, with the rest of their second-quarter points coming from free throws.

As a result, the first half drew to a close, with The Woodlands holding an impressive 37-22 lead over Grand Oaks.

“They were the aggressor for the entire first half,” said Day on his opponent. “We didn’t need to do anything different than what we normally do. We had to play to our standard in the second half.”

Grand Oaks’ standard was met in the third quarter with a thunderous comeback effort.

A scoring explosion nearly doubled the team’s points in a single quarter as the Grizzlies’ offense came to life behind eight points from guard Tre Lewis.

Another crucial change came when Grand Oaks switched from their easily broken full-court press into an up-close half-court press. This defensive change smothered the Highlander ball-handlers, who gave up costly turnovers in the eight minutes.

The turnovers and a reawakened Grand Oaks offense saw the team inch closer on the scoreboard than they had in the first half. The deficit got down to single digits and forced both teams to bolster down for the fourth quarter, with the Highlanders still clinging to a 46-38 lead.

After working out their issues during the third quarter, the Grizzlies continued to push throughout the fourth quarter. This push included a nine-point effort from Lewis, which gave him 17 total points on the game.

Lewis’s work, along with the considerable effort shown by his teammates, kept pushing Grand Oaks closer to The Woodlands on the scoreboard.

The Highlanders scrambled to get quick answers for their shrinking lead, but these answers came in the form of rushed shots, risky passes, and turnovers that benefited the Grizzlies.

The lead finally swung to Grand Oaks’ side with four minutes remaining. The Woodlands replied with a late attempt to salvage the game that focused on stretching the Grizzly defense before capitalizing on easy baskets inside.

The strategy worked for a few possessions before the Grizzlies caught on, but it was not enough for the Highlanders to fully recapture the game.

Some clutch free throws down the stretch kept Grand Oaks out of harm's way despite a desperation heave from The Woodlands in the closing minutes. A Jesus Carmona three made the game closer in the Highlander’s favor, but the result of 54-53 gave the Grizzlies a much-needed win.

“I hope this distanced us in the top three,” said Day. “Anything can happen on any given night in this district, but this is a big win for our program.”

The Grizzlies now focus on keeping the ball rolling against the Oak Ridge War Eagles, while The Woodlands looks to bounce back against Cleveland.

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