Tigers earn first playoff berth in 15 seasons
They wanted to know if they defeated Giddings, could they cut down the nets.
Now such sacred ceremonies are reserved for celebrations of championships as the season concludes, not with three games remaining on the schedule.
However, in this particular case, considering how long it has been since Tiger basketball has been celebrated in any way shape or form, they should be afforded some leeway.
The Tigers did indeed grind up Giddings 51-41 at Tiger Gymnasium to clinch a playoff berth—the programs first since 1997.
“It feels good to see the crowd, all the people in town who don’t usually come to a game and get to enjoy this,” said Rockdale Coach Dusty Loewe, who chalked up his 497th career win Friday evening. “ We came over a big hurdle. Maybe we can brush up on that in the future.”
“From where we started from Salado (a loss in the first game of the year) we’re miles apart from there.”
Coupled with a 59-41 victory over Caldwell Tuesday night on the road, the Tigers are 20- 8 on the year and 7-1 in District 23-3A.
The Tigers have now won 13 of their last 14 and 16 of 18.
They are now tied with Navasota after the Rattlers lost to lowly Giddings Tuesday night. The Rattlers are 20-10 and 7-1.
To snare the district crown, the Tigers would have to knock off the Rattlers at home Friday and then handle Smithville on the road Feb. 14.
“We just missed some shots we usually make,” Loewe said of the third quarter spell. “I don’t know if they were tight thinking about the playoffs or not. And their length gave us some trouble inside.”
Led by senior forward Zach Garza, the Tigers recovered nicely, reeling off a 20-point fourth quarter and constructing a 13- point lead midway in the period.
Garza’s three-point bomb right before the close of the third quarter, resuscitated the Tigers as they faced the last quarter and then his jumper from the left side to open the period ignited their separation.
After James David’s tip-in, Garza slid down the lane on a breakaway and after he was fouled to complete the threepoint play, Rockdale led 38-29.
Garza pulled up again for a jumper that started an 8-0 spurt that provided the Tigers with their largest lead, 46-33 with 3 minutes, 5 seconds remaining to be played after layups from David, William Dean and Wendell Mitchell.
“When we play loose with a lot of confidence, we’re pretty good,” Loewe said. “They’re fun to coach. They are so unselfish, they are always looking for the other guy. They are good about hitting the open man.”
Rockdale was 9-for-11 from the field in the final quarter.
Garza rallied the Tigers with 14 points, including 10 during a three-minute period in the third and fourth quarters.
“It seems like somebody always comes through for us. Zach was cr ucial for us tonight,” said Loewe. “The next game, there’s no telling who it will be.”
Mitchel l fol lowed w it h 11 points, while also passing off for five assists, yanking down six rebounds and picking off a pair of steals.
Cody Skubal just missed out on his 14th double-double of the season with 10 points and nine boards.
David also turned in a solid game against a much taller Giddings team with seven points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Six-foot-5 senior Mason Becker led Giddings w ith 11 points, including nine in the second half.
After getting off to a slow start, the Tigers found their way in the second half to cut off Caldwell 59- 41 on the road Tuesday night.
Rockdale again turned to the three-pointer for help, sinking half of the 10 it attempted.
Mitchell, who accounted for two of the five treys, pumped in 21 points and picked off four steals with three assists.
Skubal added 12 points with seven boards, four steals and three assists.
Garza (two treys), David (eight rebounds, four assists) and Dean all contributed eight points.
Leading 24-17 at intermission, Rockdale outscored the Hornets (10-14, 0-8) 35-24 in the second half.
Postman Zach Aldridge led Caldwell with 12 points.
TIGERS SEASON STATS
Tuesday results: Rockdale 59, Caldwell 41; Giddings 58, Navasota 57;
Friday’s results: Rockdale 51, Giddings 41; Navasota 45, Smithville 43; LaGrange 68, Caldwell 49.
Rebounds: Skubal 9.6, David 5.7
Assists: Mitchell 2.8, Skubal 2.5
FG%: David 50, Skubal 48
FT%: Mitchell 83, Dean 61
3PTS: Mitchell 50, Garza 23
Steals: Mitchell 52, Skubal 37