Despite missing two of their starters, the Calallen Wildcats managed to get an impressive victory over the rival Tuloso-Midway Warriors Friday night. The win ties the two teams for second place in the district with records of 5-2.
The Laredo Nixon Mustangs lead District 31-4A with a 6-1 record, their only loss coming from the Wildcats on Jan. 12.
"Our kids played well and we knew we were going to have to," Calallen head coach Jeff Crews said. "We're a little short-handed right now and T-M's a great ball club. They've got some great kids, great coaching, we know they're going to be well coached, that they're going to come out and execute. We knew we had a great task ahead of us and our kids responded to it."
Calallen took an early 4-0 lead on two quick baskets from guard Scott Stracener. However, the Warriors forced a foul to send Grant Wilson to the line, giving them their first score in the game.
The game was heated but never boiling as both teams played aggressive without crossing the line as they traded baskets in the quarter.
By the end of the first quarter, Calallen held a slight four-point lead, 15-11.
Both teams continued to play hard physically throughout the second quarter. T-M took advantage of Calallen's aggressive play by drawing fouls and hitting their free throws.
In the second, the Warriors went 6-9 from the free throw line. Their only field goal of the quarter was from Jeremy Brittain with 4:53 left in the half.
Calallen built on their lead in the second by continuing to attack the basket. Ethan McCormick led his team in scoring in the quarter with six points.
Stracener and Christian Cantu both had four points and Corey Sporer hit a jumper with 2:30 left.
By halftime, the Wildcats held the lead, 31-19.
The third quarter was Calallen's strongest as they held the Warriors to only six points. McCormick and Stracener led their team's offense, combining for 12 of the Wildcat's 15 points in the quarter, including a three pointer by Stracener near the end of the third.
"I didn't even look at what was going on," Crews said of his team's performance in the third quarter. "I just knew we were doing a pretty good job on both ends of the floor."
Calallen held a 21-point lead by the close of the third quarter, 46-25.
The fourth quarter saw T-M come out firing as they outscored Calallen 18-9, including a pair of three-pointers by Wilson and Brittain. However, it wasn't enough for the win as Calallen came away with the 55-43 victory.
For Calallen, McCormick and Stracener led the team with 16 points. Christian had ten points and Wyatt Mathisen finished with seven points.
T-M's leading scorer was Travis Nelson with 12 points, including 6-8 from the free throw line. Wilson finished with eight points.
Despite the physical game, McCormick said the rivalry isn't one of hatred, but of passion.
"It's a passion playing with T-M," he said. "It's a different story because I feel like I have to try harder. These are the people I grew up with playing against.
"It's… a brotherly love kind of deal. I mean, we know each other, we go to church with each other, it's all like that. It's just we're fighting like brothers."
Calallen and T-M will play each other again in their final game before the start of the playoffs on Feb. 16. McCormick said he expects the game to be just as intense.
"Even more because they're going to want to come back and fight," he said. "They're going to want revenge."