AUSTIN — Throughout Ponder’s latest state championship run, freshman guard Chase Harris talked about wanting to win a title for the team’s five seniors.
In Friday’s Class 2A semifinal victory, Harris scored a game-high 20 points to lead his team to the title game, but he paid a price. After taking an elbow to the face before halftime, Harris suffered a broken nose and a concussion but kept his injury quiet to finish the game.
In Saturday’s 66-56 win over Tatum to claim the school’s fifth state championship, Harris was merely a spectator watching one of those seniors have the game of his life.
“I grew up watching Ponder come here and win year after year,” said Harris, with tears forming in his eyes. “I was just waiting until I got here to be able to do the same thing. It hurt not being able to play in this game, but my teammates rallied and we got it done. It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.”
In a big way, he can thank his replacement for the gold medal he and his teammates sported after Saturday’s game.
Logan McCarty, who was on junior varsity until this season, got a spot start after serving mostly as the Lions’ sixth man this year and came up with a huge day, scoring 14 points with four rebounds while also taking two charges as Ponder (32-7) overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit to win by 10 points.
“I’ve been working to be a varsity player for a long time,” McCarty said. “I think this is my highest scoring game this season. It just happened to be at the state tournament. I couldn’t have imagined it going any better.”
Even after Harris scored 20 points in Friday’s semifinal win over Aransas Pass, Ponder head coach Jude Stanley said he tried to keep a calm feeling among his team in Friday evening’s practice when the players knew they’d be without their biggest 3-point shooting threat.
“They understood he wasn’t going play,” Stanley said. “We weren’t going to put his career or his life in jeopardy. His life is more important than anything we can do. That stuff’s not important at that point. These guys rallied around that, but we wanted to keep it low key. That’s how we are. We’re a pretty vanilla group. We just want to win.”
McCarty not only scored a career-high, but he did it in near-perfect fashion before fouling out with 35 seconds left and leaving to a roaring ovation from Ponder’s fans and a huge bear hug from his head coach.
McCarty finished the day 4-for-4 from the field, including a 3-pointer and two three-point plays. He went 5-for-6 from the foul line and had a steal with just three turnovers while bringing the ball up the floor often in the second half against Tatum’s ferocious defense.
Stanley said the biggest reason McCarty was successful on such a big stage Saturday was because one of his five seniors didn’t try to be anything special. Yet, he was.
“Logan had a super game for us,” Stanley said. “He was able to step in for Chase, and the big thing is he didn’t try to do too much. He made the plays he can make. He didn’t try to be extraordinary, he just played solid basketball.”