Defending state champions receive stern test from Yellowjackets in regional quarterfinals

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A storybook comeback fell short in Mineola’s 68-53 loss at the regional-qualifying playoff last Tuesday against Dallas Madison. The game featured intense physical play, excellent shooting and high drama. 

The game had a measured start. Each team adapted to the other and Mineola held a 3-point lead midway through the opening quarter. 

Jonah Fischer registered Mineola’s first points with a mid-range jumper. In his best game of the year, Fischer directed the Jackets and was the team’s high scorer with 16 points. He also exploited the Trojan backcourt for several critical scoring drives and made timely defensive stops. 

The Yellowjackets came out in a man-to-man defense and held their own against the Trojans. The pace of play however was intense and necessitated a change to a zone defense. 

With excellent outside shooting, Dallas went on a 10-point run to end the first quarter.

The suffocating Trojan defense caused eight Mineola turnovers in the first half. Those turnovers converted directly to points and midway through the second quarter Mineola was down by 17.   

The Yellowjackets were able to break the press and create plenty of offensive floor space in the first half but chose to pull the ball back and go into their standard offensive sets with each possession. Meanwhile Madison was attacking with deep passes ahead and aggressive movement of the ball down the court. 

At the half, the Yellowjackets trailed by 13 points, 34-21. Madison was definitely in control.   

Fischer hit a 3-pointer to open the third. Two consecutive offensive put-backs by Dawson Pendergrass followed. Madison signaled a quick time out to stop the Mineola flurry of scoring.

The run continued. A long pass ahead to Kelby Bruner and two assists by Fischer, one to Bruner and one to T.J. Moreland made it a 3-point game.  

Mineola tied the score at 40 on a Moreland corner 3-pointer off of an inbound play in the offensive zone. A second long range shot by Moreland gave Mineola the lead 43-42 with seconds to play in the third quarter.  

It had been a momentous comeback. Mineola used two fundamental changes from its initial game plan: they effectively pressed Madison in the third quarter, and they attacked the basket as they brought the ball up court. Those changes, when combined with excellent rebounding, created the comeback. 

Pendergrass and Wiley Franks won the rebounding battle on the night. Only in the closing minutes of the game did the Madison big men crash the boards. Of note, Pendergrass secured 14 rebounds.

Going into the final quarter it was anyone’s game. It remained close through the first three minutes. Madison whistled a time out with four minutes to play and holding a 3-point lead. The Trojan bench implored the team to “Block out…block out!” 

Madison rallied for 13 points in the final three minutes to take the win. The sudden surge was a combination of outside shooting, four critical turnovers by Mineola and Yellowjacket shots just not falling. 

The final winning margin masks the competitiveness of this playoff game. The Jackets were left a couple of minutes shy of the regional tournament, but gave the reigning 3A state champs one of their toughest tests of the year.  

Madison will defend its championship this week in San Antonio.

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