Brock’s defense brings down Jarrell in Class 3A state semifinal

In the moments after a 46-43 loss to Brock in a Class 3A state semifinal at the Alamodome, the future didn’t matter a great deal to Jarrell’s basketball players and coaches.

It wasn’t significant that all five starters will return next season for a Jarrell team that had just reached the UIL boys state tournament for only the second time in school history. It didn’t matter either that two of the Cougars starters against Brock were only sophomores, and it hardly registered that Jarrell pushed one of the state’s proudest programs to the final whistle on Thursday.

“It means something to make it here, but it doesn’t feel right to not win it,” said junior guard T.J. Sykes, who scored a game-high 15 points while leading a late Jarrell run. “This is just a step in the right direction.”

All-out effort was never a concern for the Cougars on Thursday, but making shots against Brock’s tenacious man-to-man defense certainly became one, especially in the second and third quarters.

Jarrell (33-4), which shot 32.6 percent from the floor for the game, managed just 11 total points in the second and third periods against a Brock squad intent on slowing down Cougars post Qyrique Dabon. The 6-foot-7 Dabon, who scored 29 points in a regional-final victory over Teague last week, finished with seven points on 2-of-6 shooting and a game-high nine rebounds.

Brock (30-8), which lost to Jarrell 58-53 in the Whataburger Tournament this past December, knew Jarrell’s offense flowed through Dabon.

“So we double-teamed him and tripled-teamed him sometimes,” said Brock coach Zach Boxell. “We had to make them beat us from the outside.”

Brock’s defensive focus hurt the Eagles early in the game. While Brock players swarmed Dabon in the paint, they left the perimeter unguarded. The Cougars took advantage by making four three-pointers in the first period, including three by Kyle Spencer, while building a 13-6 lead five minutes into the game.

But Brock’s sticky man-to-man defense and a commitment to slowing the game’s pace helped the Eagles hold the Cougars to fewer than 45 points for just the second time this season. Brock took its first lead of the game on a three-pointer by Amery Hughes, and the Eagles led 23-20 at halftime.

“It seemed like once I had those threes, they came out and the pressure intensified,” said Spencer, who ended the game with 12 points. “I just wish I could have done more for my team.”

Behind a balanced attack that saw seven players score, Brock built a 37-27 lead early in the fourth quarter. Jarrell coach Drew Sumner, who’s typically reluctant to use pressure defense, switched to a halfcourt trap, and the Cougars began closing their deficit.

Three consecutive baskets by Sykes trimmed Brock’s lead to 37-33 with 3:55 to play, and his pair of free throws pulled Jarrell within 42-40 with just more than a minute remaining on the clock.

“When you’re down by 10 and start trapping, you don’t know if it’ll turn into a 20-point lead for them,” Sumner said, “but that’s the chance we took. What’s the difference if you lose by two or 20? It worked out, just not well enough for a win.”

That’s because Brock, a three-time state champion, made enough accurate passes and enough free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.

In the process, the Eagles may have taught Jarrell one final lesson in regard to the 2016-17 season.

“We need to work to get strong mentally,” Sykes said. “I felt like we got a little too high before this game and maybe looked past it. We just have to now get back to the gym and start working.”

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