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Junior guard Sergio Gutierez looks for an open teammate during the Rattlers game against Cibolo Steele. San Marcos lost on a buzzer beater by the Knights to force a three-way tie for both fourth place and the final playoff spot.
Daily Record photo by Gerald Castillo

Rattlers fall to Steele buzzer-beater

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Rattlers fought until the final whistle Friday night.

San Marcos fell 58-56 against Cibolo Steele in a contest that went back and forth throughout the entirety of the game’s 32 minutes. Despite holding a 56-54 lead with a minute left, the Rattlers were unable to secure the victory in the final moments.

“It was a great game, credit to (Steele) for making the winning shot at the end. It was one of those games where it was back and forth throughout the game. (But) we have to find a way to win that game. We missed five free throws for sure in the fourth quarter, and that’s part of basketball — you gotta be able to step to the line and make those. I know our guys can in the future, we just didn’t get it done tonight,” head coach Dan Miller said. “But I was extremely proud of our guys after Tuesday, playing not so much as the team that we’re used to, like playing team basketball, [and] not playing as hard as we usually do. We played hard tonight. We played as a team tonight. We supported each other tonight. It’s just a tough district, that game could have went either way and we lost by two points.”

The game began with a slower, defensive pace as the Knights implemented a full-court press that contributed to the Rattlers committing eight turnovers in the first quarter. San Marcos still held a 3-2 lead midway through the period thanks to ball pressure of their own defensively and a three from junior guard Donovan Riddick, but things picked up in the second half of the quarter. Both teams traded baskets in transition and on the half court, with Riddick continuing to find buckets in the paint and on the perimeter that led to things being tied up at 16-16 at the end of the period.

Steele opened the second 8-5 with an open three being the difference, but San Marcos had a response waiting in the wings before halftime. The Rattlers ended the last four minutes of the quarter on a 10-4 run, with junior guards Josiah Hollmon and Cash Good scoring in transition on top of Riddick continuing to contribute. The energy and effort from San Marcos (21-11, 2-5) earned them a 31-28 lead at the break.

“In those types of games, I say calm is contagious. You gotta be calm. It’s important as a coaching staff (that) we’re calm, and (for) players we can get fired up in the battle, but we have to be calm to make those plays. I think for the most part our guys were. You’d like to see us do a better job there at the end taking care of the ball and being a little cleaner, but we ended up at the free throw line,” Miller said. “That five second call was unfortunate. We didn’t see the ref moving his hand and counting. If it was, it was very small but we’re not gonna make excuses. We thought we’d get the last shot and it would either be with us winning or in overtime. It didn’t work out that way, and we can’t make excuses — we can’t blame refs. We have to be better than that and it is what it is.”

The Knights opened the third with another slight advantage, this time starting out 7-4 with another three-pointer being the difference. Steele’s positive start tied things up at 3535 halfway through the period. San Marcos once again had another punch ready though — the Rattlers put together a 10-6 run of their own over the next two minutes to regain a 45-41 lead, forcing Steele (18-11, 2-5) to call timeout with two minutes left in the quarter. The Knights finished the quarter with another jab, going on a 4-0 run to even things up at 45-45 heading into the final frame.

The fourth quarter had high intensity with both teams feeding off the energy inside the Snake Pit. Both squads traded baskets throughout the quarter keeping the contest a one-possession game for the duration of the period. After a few trips to the free throw line with around three minutes remaining, San Marcos gained a 5453 advantage. Over the next minute and a half, San Marcos built that up to 56-54 thanks to a pair of clutch free throws from Hollmon. The Knights hit a floater in response to tie the game at 56-56, and forced a 5-second call on the Rattlers on their next possession with 16 ticks left on the clock.

Steele’s momentum rolled, as the Knights hit an and-one layup driving inside with two seconds left on the clock after winding time down to take a 58-56 lead. Steele missed the layup, giving the Rattlers one last chance to heave up a shot before the clock hit zero. The Knights tipped the Rattlers halfcourt inbound pass, ending the game.

“Real talk, that was an extremely tough game for us in the standings because if we could have won that one we would’ve been in control and had a tiebreaker against Steele. Now we don’t, and it’s probably going to be a three-way thing with us, East Central and Steele. Somebody’s gotta get that spot, and we’re going to have to beat somebody. We have some tough games next week (with) Judson, who’s playing really well, and New Braunfels. We’re going to have to get some wins, if not all of them to get in,” Miller said. “So we put ourselves in a tough spot. But that’s the best thing about this game — it teaches you about life, adversity and fighting for something. So we’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight. We’re going to stay together. And until our season’s officially done, we’re going to keep fighting, and we’re going to do it together and represent San Marcos High School the right way.”

San Marcos hits the road to face Converse Judson in another high-stakes district match up on Feb. 6 with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

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