By Jim Irish
The wins are piling up for Cedar Creek.
The Eagles boys basketball team won its second tournament of the season — and only second in school history — over Belton 58-56 at home Saturday.
The win in the final of its own tournament and four earlier tourney wins propelled Cedar Creek to a 12-1 record.
“The players worked hard; they’re buying in,” Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell said. “They continue to want to improve, and they fight. …What you want is a chance just to compete for a win.”
This was a highly competitive contest down to the final seconds between two strong teams. Cedar Creek point guard Robert Conrad converted one of two free throws with four seconds remaining for a 58-56 advantage. Belton’s last shot missed. The loss was Belton’s first of the season after eight consecutive wins.
"...What you want is a chance just to compete for a win."
-- Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell
“It’s a good early season game,” Belton coach Jason Fossett said. “It’s a good game for both teams: win or lose.”
Cedar Creek grabbed the largest lead of the game at 18-11 near the end of the first quarter on a 3-pointer by left-handed Phineas Koplin. But Belton rallied, gaining a five-point lead 28-23 on a three pointer by 6-foot-9 Jayden Ford, a transfer from Atlanta, Ga., late in the second quarter.
Koplin, a 6-3 sophomore, drilled two consecutive 3-pointers late in the second quarter and finished with 12 points, all on 3s.
“This was a Phineas game,” Maxwell said. “He came through for us. He can shoot the ball.”
Koplin missed two free throws on a technical foul in the fourth quarter.
“It was a call we wanted to see,” Maxwell said about having Koplin take the free throws rather than Conrad, a 75% free throw shooter. “Maybe the moment was a little too big for the sophomore.”
Conrad led Cedar Creek with 18 points and also grabbed nine rebounds. Kenji Franklin found it tough inside against Ford and 6-5 Trap Johnson but finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Micah McDonald and Bryan Allen added eight points each; McDonald snagged nine rebounds.
Belton’s Johnson was the game’s high scorer with 26 points.
“I thought Micah McDonald did a fantastic job on (Johnson),” Maxwell said.
Conrad and Franklin were selected to the all-tournament team as were Belton’s Johnson and Ford.
Cedar Creek's Kade Masters sprained his ankle against Belton and is "very doubtful" for Tuesday's game at Hyde Park, Maxwell said
In earlier games, Cedar pounded Lockhart 70-31 and Santa Fe on Thursday and subdued Brenham 63-54 and Taylor 69-55 on Friday. Conrad scored in double digits in all five games with a high of 31 points against Taylor.
A most valuable player was not chosen, but Maxwell said it would have been Conrad if the tourney had selected one.
Bastrop compiled a 3-2 record at the Salado tournament over the weekend. On Thursday, the Bears (5-5) downed the Liberal Arts & Science Academy of Austin 55-46 and lost to Decatur 62-36. On Friday, they were hammered by Gatesville 82-48 and defeated Salado 60-54. Bastrop won its final game over Lampasas 59-56 on Saturday.
Bastrop faces Lehman on the road on Tuesday.
Jim Irish is a freelance writing living in Bastrop, Texas