PONDER — Tye Schluter finished with 20 points and Ponder beat Argyle 57-53 on Tuesday in a game that almost got away from the Lions.
Argyle, a Class 4A state semifinalist a year ago, scored 25 points in the fourth quarter — 13 in the last 1:14 — to nearly erase a nine-point hole. Rylan Waldo added 12 points for Ponder, which went 8-for-10 from the free throw line in the final minute.
Of Class 3A Ponder's 19 fourth-quarter points, 17 came from the free throw line.
Argyle (17-6) came in having won four in a row over the Lions.
"Good teams like that find a way to climb back into a game," Ponder coach Jude Stanley said. "I'm proud of our guys for hitting free throws down the stretch to ice it."
Blaze McMellian and Brandon White scored 15 and 14 points, respectively, for Argyle.
Ponder (19-5) finished with six 3-pointers and had three players score in double figures, with Blake Gibson posting 10. The Lions looked like they would run Argyle out of the gym, as they broke open a 16-all tie with a 13-2 run to close the first half. Schluter capped that surge with back-to-back 3-pointers.
Still, Argyle wouldn't go away. The Eagles outscored Ponder 35-28 in the second half and answered the Lions' hot shooting with 10 treys of their own.
Trailing 49-40 with a little less than two minutes to play, Argyle got back-to-back 3-pointers from McMellian followed by another 3 from Wilson Peltier. Ponder was only shooting free throws at the time and quickly saw its lead dwindle to three points with 14.4 seconds left.
Argyle scored once more after that as Ponder hit three more buckets from the charity stripe.
"We played good enough defense to keep ourselves in the game," Argyle coach Russell Perkins said. "We just couldn't get enough shots quick enough to pull this one out. That's a credit to Ponder, though. They don't let you take those shots."
Both teams are coming off deep postseason runs. The Eagles made it to the 4A state tournament before losing in the semifinals. Perkins returns just one starter from that team. Meanwhile, Ponder is senior-heavy and looking to make another long run.
"We have one junior on the team, so our expectations have been high from the get-go," Stanley said. "We have a big ceiling to reach, and I don't think we've peaked yet."
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.
Ponder 57, Argyle 53
Argyle (17-6) — Blaze McMellian 15, Brandon White 14, Maxwell Valentino 7, Wilson Peltier 6, Koy Randall 6, Jackson Maupin 3, Luke Feely 2.
Ponder (19-5) — Tye Schluter 20, Rylan Waldo 12, Blake Gibson 10, Dean Akins 9, Trent Akins 6.