By BRAD KEITH
(March 4, 2015) — No. 16 Lingleville took on one of the titans of Class A basketball Tuesday night, and every time the Cardinals appeared ready to get over the hump and pull off the upset, No. 5 Graford had an answer.
The Cardinals began the game on a 7-0 run, but Graford answered with a 17-0 surge in the second quarter. Lingleville had runs of 11-0 to begin the third quarter and 9-0 to begin the fourth, but again, both times, Graford withstood the challenge and responded.
The response usually came in the form of Zach Tabor, who scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, helping Graford hold on, 66-55, in the Region III-A quarterfinal at Eastland High School. Graford advances to the regional tournament while Lingleville completes its season with a record of 26-7.
“We want to play our best game of the year the last time we touch the floor, and even though we lost, I can honestly say that was our best game,” said third-year Lingleville head coach Kade Eckert following his 96th game leading the Cardinals. “Aftr all we went through, especially the passing of Bart, and the way we recomposed ourselves and got going again, it was an impressive season for this group of young men. I’m very proud of them. They fought hard for all 32 minutes, harder than in any game I’ve coached at Lingleville.”
Graford’s big second-quarter run made it 34-17 at halftime, but the Cardinals’ answer to begin the third cut the margin to 34-28. The same happened in the fourth, with Graford beginning the period ahead 46-32 and Lingleville rallying to within 46-41.
“We had the two big runs, but then we had a couple possessions end in turnovers and they made us pay. That’s what a good teams is supposed to do, and they did it,” said Eckert.
The killer was three straight missed free throws after clawing within six at 52-46.
“You have to hit your free throws, and those were some big ones in the fourth quarter,” said Eckert, who noted that Tabor was 10-12 from the stripe for Graford.
Colbe Stoker scored 16 for Lingleville, while Tyler Griffin added 11, Bailey Fenn 10 and Jarod Hagood 10.
“Bailey Fenn played his best game last night, he was huge for us, and he wasn’t the only one,” said Eckert. “Colbe obviously scoring 16 points were big, and it was great to have four double-digit scorers. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Other scorers for Lingleville were Brady Sult with five, Meine Huisman two and Tom VanKranenburg one.