SANGER — After falling behind double-digits in the first quarter, it seemed clear the answer to Ponder’s offensive struggles was finding more touches for senior Clay Morgan.
Morgan responded with 13 points in the second quarter on the way to a game-high 35, but when he fouled out late in the first overtime against Van Alstyne, the Lions rose to the occasion with their defense and clutch shooting and eked out a 73-70 double-overtime victory in a Class 2A Region II area-round playoff game.
“Clay kept us in this thing and gave us the opportunity to get into to overtime,” Ponder head coach Jude Stanley said. “He was a machine. You always want your senior leader to come out and have that kind of game when the spotlight was on, and he did that for us. He had a couple tough foul calls and the other guys stepped up right behind him.”
Morgan delivered nine more points in the third quarter to get the Lions within two points at 40-38 after trailing 32-27 at halftime, and added seven points in the fourth. His three-point play tied the game with 1:33 left.
“The coaches told me, ‘Get us down low because we have a height advantage,’” Morgan said. “They kept giving it to me in good position. I kept scoring, so we just kept rolling with that because we weren’t hitting any threes at all.”
The Lions (27-7) did struggle from the 3-point line, but when they had to, their outside shooting found its range. Freshman Chase Harris’ 3-pointer evened the game at 60 after Morgan fouled out, and sophomore Brady Anderson’s free throws with 1:03 left in the first overtime sent the game to a second at 62-all.
“Freshman Chase Harris hit a couple of huge 3s there to finally get us in contact, and then Brady hit a 3 to give us some separation there toward the end of the second overtime,” Stanley said. “Chase stepped in there in a huge moment and hit some clutch shots. He showed a lot of poise for a freshman.”
Harris recorded 23 points, with Anderson scoring four of his eight points in the second overtime, including two free throws to give the Lions a 72-67 lead.
Morgan said he had faith that his teammates could bring home the win without him, but he didn’t enjoy not being out on the floor to help his team — something he fell victim to in the Lions’ opening-round playoff game last season, when Morgan again fouled out, but Ponder was able to sneak out a victory against Sunnyvale, 59-53 in double overtime.
“It was really tough because I didn’t know what was going to happen and I didn’t have any control over anything,” Morgan said. “I just counted on my team to pull it through for us and through two overtimes they did. It was really tough.”