Photo by Gerald Castillo
San Marcos eliminated from playoffs by Westwood, 59-58
AUSTIN — The emotions after the Rattlers’ first game of the season were the complete opposite after San Marcos’ playoff game Tuesday night.
To open the year, San Marcos traveled to Round Rock Westwood looking to start its new system and culture under first-year head coach Dan Miller. The team succeeded, defeating Westwood in a tough 69-61 win. After the game, the Rattlers were smiling, optimistic about the long season ahead of them while the Warriors had to go back to the drawing board in search of its first win. Each team went through its season only getting better from its first game and they combined to finish with a 57-15 record.
San Marcos and Westwood met again in the first round of the UIL 6A playoffs on Tuesday at Austin High. The Rattlers made an 11-point second-half comeback to take the lead with 1.7 seconds left. But San Marcos left the gym somber, in shock and distraught, walking away with a 59-58 season-ending loss.
“This one hurts,” head coach Dan Miller said. “I’m not surprised to see the fight because they showed that resiliency all year in practice and games. We didn’t panic when we got down. I’ll say hats off to Westwood for the win, they had some seniors and they made some senior plays. It was an electric atmosphere on both sides. Unfortunately, a game like that, one team has to go home. Just wasn’t our night at the finish line. But it was a heck of a game, I’m proud of our kids.”
With fans pulling into the Austin High gym, both student sections traveled to see their teams go to battle. Students yelled at one another, fans and parents argued for calls and the pace of the game was dictated by the crowd’s reactions — a perfect storm for playoff basketball.
Both teams opened the first quarter sluggish but once Westwood (30-5, 11-3) got going, they didn’t look back. After the Warriors’ opening basket, they proceeded to score on three straight possessions. Meanwhile, the Rattlers struggled offensively with multiple turnovers attacking the basket. They didn’t fall too far behind thanks to junior guard Kaden Gumbs. A step back corner 3 by the junior marked his eighth point of the opening frame. Gumbs was the only Rattler to score for San Marcos as the team trailed 15-8 going into the second.
Junior forward Malik Presley, after a rare scoreless quarter, opened the second quarter with five straight points. Gumbs found success on a pull-up jump shot, which tied the game at 19-19. Westwood countered the Rattlers with an 11-4 run, including a deep buzzer-beater by Warriors senior guard Zachary Allen Engels. The 3-pointer took Westwood into halftime with a 30-23 lead.
“(I told our players) we have to speed these guys up,” Miller said. “If we play a slow, methodical game, that’s the game they want. We want to play a faster game. We always talk about this, it starts when you get stops and you get rebounds, you get some steals and we weren’t getting those so we had to pick up our pressure a little bit.”
The adjustments showed up. Westwood scored on back-to-back possessions to open the half with its largest lead of the game at 34-23. But junior guard Abel Trevino got a steal and an and-one heading to the basket. The very next play, San Marcos found Trevino in transition for a corner 3, which cut the Warriors’ lead to four and forced them to call timeout. Out of the timeout, another defensive stop allowed Presley to get a putback layup, which gave San Marcos its first lead of the night with 2:08 left in the quarter. The teams went into the final period tied at 39-39.
Engels was an unstoppable force all night and he lifted Westwood again late, opening the fourth with the first six points of the quarter for the Warriors. San Marcos called timeout and hit a triple immediately after to make it 50-42 with 4:51 left. San Marcos had an unstoppable force, too, by the name of Malik Presley. He was scored on three straight possessions tied the game again a few plays later, 52-52.
The back-and-forth affair had to come to an end at some point and Westwood made sure to push ahead as the team led by five with 1:08 sitting on the clock. Fans started to feel the season coming to an end but the players from San Marcos had other plans. Presley scored with 48 seconds remaining and with some full-court pressure, freshman guard Criston “Cash” Good dove to the floor for a steal and found Gumbs wide open under the rim in time for a layup, making it a one-point game.
Westwood tried to get a layup on the other end but was stopped by the Rattler defense. Miller called a timeout with 12.4 seconds left to draw something up.
Westwood came out in a zone but Presley did what he was doing all night by getting to the basket. This time the refs blew their whistle as he was fouled going baseline with 1.7 seconds left, putting San Marcos in the bonus down one.
“It’s what you want,” Miller said about the final play.
As the leading scorer on the team, Presley stepped up to the line for a one-and-one hoping to take San Marcos into the second round. But the ball had other plans as it bounced off of the rim and Westwood secured the rebound and the 59-58 win in the final seconds.
Miller had a tough conversation with the four-star recruit after the game, telling him two things.
“I love him and he’s an awesome player,” Miller told Presley. “We were not even in the game if it wasn’t for Malik. That was just one play out of probably 100 plays in the game. The play before that, we called his number. In fact, he changed the play to something else. He likes to get the ball where he wants and score. Then we went back to him. Everything worked out but just one play. And so his head will be up and (I) can’t wait to get back to work with him in the gym.”
San Marcos concluded the season 27-10 overall and 10-4 in District 26-6A play under Miller’s leadership in the first year. The Rattlers bring will graduate senior guard Caleb Williams and forward Jordan Mendoza. Now with the majority of the team returning as seniors with playoff experience, including Presley and Gumbs, Miller fully expects his team to be back in the playoffs next season.
“It was a great season for many things,” Miller said. “Twenty-seven wins, I don’t know where that ranks in school history. Someone said it might be second or third but you know, I know it’s up there somewhere. A tournament win in New Braunfels, win at Lake Travis, some good accomplishments along the way. We’re proud of the season.
“It’s got to be what we do daily. I’m not too much of one of those coaches who does anything other than talk about it one time like, ‘Here’s our goal, we want to be hosting the big trophy next year.’ What’s our plan of action? I’m excited to put our plan of action in the gym, in the weight room, and I do think this team could be really special. I really do. We’re adding a couple pieces to a really good returning team. And it’s going to be a lot of fun next year.”