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Jayven Cofer tries to get past two San Antonio Clark defenders in San Marcos’ playoff game against the Cougars. Cofer finished the game with six points including a three-pointer late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 46-46.
Daily Record photo by Gerald Castillo

San Marcos grits out first playoff win since 2015 against San Antonio Clark

Thursday, February 23, 2023

NEW BRAUNFELS - Bi-District Round of the UIL 6A Playoff Basketball Playoffs began Tuesday for the 8th ranked San Marcos Rattlers as they found a way to win a nail biter over the San Antonio Clark Cougars 50-48 at Canyon High School in New Braunfels.

Behind a strong second half effort and the senior leadership of Kaden Gumbs’ 20-points and senior Malik Presley added 13-points as they erased a 21-16 halftime deficit as they outscored the Cougars 34-27 in the final two quarters.

“Credit to San Antonio Clark, they played a great game and that 2-3 zone,” Rattler head coach Dan Miller said. “We just had the turnover bug early. I think our adrenaline backfired on us a little bit. We missed a lot of lay-ups we normally finish, we fumbled the ball quite a bit, but once we came out of the locker room in the second half; I think the Rattlers came out of the locker room for the second half.”

The Rattlers clawed their way back into the game after a slow start in the first half as the Cougars jumped out to an early 9-7 lead in the opening quarter behind senior center Ethan Croley two early three-pointers. The senior Cougar center finished with a game-high 23-points.

“He (Croley) was a really good shooter for his size even when I got in his face he still hit two 3’s on me,” senior forward Mateus Perkins said. “Coach (Miller) just emphasized getting into his body (space) more in the second half and making him uncomfortable. That is what we started doing.”

Clark was able to keep the pressure on through the second quarter, keeping San Marcos at an arm’s distance. The Rattlers’ offense continued to struggle with turnovers, scoring only seven points in the quarter.

“Honestly, we felt prepared going against their zone, and we were getting decent opportunities, we just can’t turn the ball over,” Miller said. “We just have to be stronger with the ball. They were collapsing hard, and we just fumbled the ball quite a bit.”

It was a tale of two halves as San Marcos came out with a new focus and intensity as they battled back to take a lead at 28-27, forcing a Cougar timeout. Gumbs picked up the focus on both ends of the floor adding 8-points in the third, including two from behind the arc.

“We just wanted to get downhill early, and Kaden was hitting his outside shots,” senior guard Jayven Cofer said. “I wanted to get downhill and find him, as he continued to hit and that brought us back into the game.”

After the Clark timeout, the Cougars closed out the third quarter on a 10-3 run as they took a 38-30 lead into the final eight minutes.

Down eight going into the final quarter, the Rattlers stepped up the intensity on the defensive end and continued to push on offense to get back into the game. “We have been doing this all season, we know we can win every game,” Perkins said. “Against Judson we were down 15 in the fourth quarter, we just have to play hard to the very end.”

The Cougars hit two free throws to take a 3-point advantage at 46-43, and then Cofer delivered yet another clutch three-pointer this season to notch the score at 46. “I always want to come up in big moments for my team,” Cofer said. “My teammates trusted me, I was open, and they found me. I always shoot with confidence and I hit it.” After a defensive stop at the rim, the Rattlers picked up the loose ball racing down the court with one minute remaining in the game looking to take the lead. Presley was able to get the ball at the top of the elbow, and dished the ball down to Perkins in the post for the goahead slam.

“It feels great to be able to come into the game and close out the game, especially for a playoff win,” Perkins said as he chipped in with 10-points and the goahead slam in the final minute.

The senior forward added two free throws with 8-seconds remaining to seal the playoff win for the Rattlers.

“Honestly, it’s just our season in a nutshell tonight. We blow some teams out and then we have some we really have to fight and find a way to win,” Miller said. “This is going to be playoff basketball. Hopefully, we play better than we did in the first half, but these are playoff games and our team believes we can win any game, no matter the score or situation. They really showed that tonight, we always believe in each other.”

San Marcos will travel up I-35 for an Area Round match up with a former district rival in the Austin Westlake Chaparrals.

Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Austin Bowie High School.

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