GUNTER — If the game had an extra minute or two, the Tigers may have been staring at a very disheartening loss.
In the thick of a tightly-contested district race, giving away games against those you are battling for a playoff spot could come back to haunt you down the road.
And as Gunter had built an 11-point lead with just over three minutes remaining, the Tigers looked to be on the verge of locking down a win against Pottsboro.
But the Cardinals, despite injury woes which have put them in an early district hole, forced Gunter to hold on for the 61-58 victory in District 9-3A action.
“We have to do the little things right. We have to keep grinding,” Tigers head coach Lonnie Scott said. “The decision-making was a little off. We could never get the momentum to stay on our side. The momentum kept shifting to their side.”
Zander Turner scored 15 points, Kyle Watson and Josh Rogers each totaled 11 points and Will Blansett chipped in 10 points for Gunter (19-4, 2-2), which holds sole possession of fourth place heading into its bye on Friday. The Tigers will host Leonard in non-district action before returning to 9-3A play at home against S&S on Tuesday.
Zach Wideman scored 25 points, Grayson Watson chipped in 11 points, Jake Williams added nine points and Aidan Cannon finished with eight points for Pottsboro (13-9, 0-3), which hosts fifth-place Callisburg on Friday night and is seeking its first win since senior swingman Jaxon Recer was hurt in the semifinals of the Leonard Tournament right after Christmas. Recer led the team at 26.4 points, 14.1 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.
The Cardinals made a pair of runs in the fourth quarter. The rally started by holding Gunter to just eight points in the frame and seven of that came in a two-minute stretch.
Cannon opened the fourth by converting a three-point play and Wideman scored the next four points as Pottsboro trimmed the deficit to five with 5:35 remaining.
The Tigers responded with a 7-0 burst starting on a Trey Phillips three-pointer and Rogers picked off a pass and took it the other way for a 60-49 lead with 3:12 to go.
From that point, Gunter managed only a free throw by Blansett with 10.9 seconds left to make it a 61-58 contest. He missed the second attempt but Rogers ran down the rebound and the Cardinals fouled with 1.2 seconds left. A half-court heave by Wideman out of a scramble was well off-target.
Williams was the catalyst in the 9-0 burst to give Pottsboro a chance. He made a three-point play, then drove to the basket and it was 60-54 with just under three minutes left. A minute later Wideman had the first of two putbacks and the Cardinals were down two.
Turner hit a three-pointer from the top of the key at the third-quarter buzzer to give Gunter a 53-41 advantage. It capped a 14-2 run by the Tigers after Pottsboro tied the game at 39.
Turner had started the surge with a three and Blansett and Watson also connected from deep during the stretch. Gunter made 11 three-pointers in the game.
“We always think we have to hit eight. That’s our number,” Scott said. “We hit eight and we think we’ll be in the game.”
Watson helped Pottsboro get even in the middle of the third after trailing by eight when he hit a pair of three-pointers.
The entirety of the second quarter was cut into thirds. Gunter opened with an 11-o run as Blansett hit two threes and Watson also connected from deep for a 25-18 lead.
Pottsboro then got almost all of its scoring from Wideman, who had 10 points in the next three minutes to get the Cards within 28-26. Travis Teague’s three-pointer from the right corner put Pottsboro in front with 1:35 to go in the half but the lead was short-lived. Gunter scored the final seven points, the last bucket being a Turner three with three seconds remaining before the intermission.
Wideman scored 17 points in the first half, keeping Pottsboro within striking distance as the rest of the Cardinals combined for 12 points through the opening two quarters.
“We thought we’d have to get them up and down the floor but by doing that we didn’t have a man on him,” Scott said. “That all changed when we had to go straight man to put somebody on that one person.”
Pottsboro held a 16-14 lead after the first quarter when Wideman scored in the final seconds. The Cardinals had the early advantage before Rogers banked in a three from the right wing to tie the score at seven. After the Tigers went up 14-10, Pottsboro closed on a 6-0 run.