Comeback falls short for Hornets as playoffs loom

Feb. 6—As the regular season winds down, Huntsville boys basketball dropped a pivotal game against Porter that drops the Hornets' playoff chances.

The Hornets (10-15, 2-6 District 16, 5A) saw themselves get within four points of the Spartans late in the game, but could never get over the hump.

Huntsville dropped the game 48-41 and will have to win out if they want to extend their season into the playoffs.

"I thought we started extremely slow. I thought in the second half we came out, represented well and came back," Huntsville head coach Jay Oliphant said. "There are simple things we have to clean up like free throws and making shots. We didn't do a good job of making shots tonight."

Huntsville turned things up in the second half of the game but ultimately never got over their first-half stumbles. The Hornets won the tip and saw a Chad Johnson layup give them an early 2-0 lead, but then they went cold.

It would take nearly six minutes for Huntsville to get another shot to fall as two Johnson free throws rimmed out. Huntsville's other basket came from freshman Jakhavien Birks who stopped a Porter run.

The damage was done, though. The Spartans held a 17-4 lead after eight minutes as nearly every shot the Hornets took bounced around and out of the rim.

Unfortunately for Huntsville, the low shooting percentage has been that way for the entire season for Huntsville.

"It's been the entire year. These guys are young but we will have to make those shots next year," Oliphant said. "I'd rather see them go in now, but I know we are going through growing pains."

Before the Hornets took on Kingwood Park, Huntsville's entire roster was overhauled and it brought it back to being an even younger team. The Hornets have four members that started the season on the varsity level.

Johnson was one of those members. As a sophomore, Johnson has two years of varsity experience under his belt. Against Porter, he talked seven points drilling a late three.

Another returner is sophomore Brett Butler. Like Johnson, Butler is a second-year varsity member and can be a sharpshooter from behind the arc. Butler had nine points against Porter and hit back-to-back threes in the second frame to give the Hornets life. He finished with a team-high nine points, along with Jamarian Mills.

"Chad is always a great leader. BB can hit some shots for us and do some good things," Oliphant said. "I thought that with it being the younger guys fourth game, they played well. They are doing good things. We just have to see the ball go in the hole sometimes."

Oliphant took a different approach to substitutions. For most of the second half, he ran with the starters and the backups. He would flip them out every few minutes in a full swap. A lot of the time, it worked. The non-starters combined for 14 points off the bench, 11 of them came in the second half.

The moving around also gave Huntsville fresh legs late in the game and allowed them to outscore the Spartans by six in the third quarter.

"It's good because they have some resilience," Oliphant said. "They have to have that to be a good basketball team."

The season is quickly ending and Huntsville will have to beat the first and third-place teams if they want an opportunity to make the postseason.

Huntsville will start that run with their final home game of the season on Friday. The Hornets will welcome Lufkin for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off at the Paul Bohan Gym. The game will be broadcast on the 101.7 KSAM YouTube Channel.

"It's going to be another tough opponent. They are longer and more athletic so the guards will have to hit some shots," Oliphant said.