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First-place Pottsboro avoids upset at Gunter

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Pottsboro's Aidan Cannon drives to the basket during the Cardinals' victory at Gunter in District 11-3A action.

GUNTER — After 10 days on the sidelines due to COVID-19 protocols, the Pottsboro Cardinals returned to action still in first place. But they almost got a rude welcome back by a Gunter group looking to pull off some upsets in the final weeks of the season.

Down by double-digits in the third quarter, the Cardinals were able to pull out a 56-50 victory over the Tigers in District 11-3A action.

“We had to keep playing our game,” Pottsboro head coach Greg Nix said. “I’m just happy with a win coming out of a 10-day ‘vacation,’”

Aidan Cannon scored 22 points, Brett Nix added 19 points and Jake Kubik chipped in seven points for Pottsboro (15-3, 6-1), which hosts Bonham on Friday night and then has a makeup game at Leonard on Saturday afternoon.

Kaiden Pines hit six three-pointers and finished with 21 points, Cole Lemons added 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals and Brady Harris chipped in seven points and six rebounds for Gunter (3-19, 1-8), which plays at fourth-place Howe on Friday.

“A kid hits his first five threes and you start wondering,” Nix said. “That’s the way upsets happen.”

The Cardinals remained above the fray and avoided dropping into a tie with Bells. Second through fifth place are only two games apart.

“It’s a mess. The district’s a mess with how close it is,” Nix said. “There’s a lot that’s gonna change in the next week or so with everyone playing each other.”

Gunter opened the second half on a 10-1 run that was bookended by three-pointers from Pines and Cade Dodson. It was a three-minute stretch which saw the Tigers take a 38-28 lead and they were up by 10 points again with 3:33 left in the quarter.

By the end of the third Pottsboro had tied the game at 42 heading, the punctuation of a 12-2 run being Cannon’s three-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.

It wasn’t all positive during the stretch as Nix picked up his fourth foul and had to sit for seven of the final 10 minutes.

That had the Cardinals mixing-and-matching most of the fourth quarter and they were able to get contributions to pull out the win.

“Foul situation forced us to make some changes. We had to put Aidan at the point, which he normally is off the ball,” Nix said. “Aaron Massie stepped up huge. Kubik played his butt off. Braden Driggs gave us some real good minutes.”

Gunter’s last lead came on Lemons’ basket with 6:02 remaining. Massie followed with his only two buckets and Cannon drilled a three-pointer off an inbounds play with 3:18 left for a 51-45 margin just after Nix returned to the game.

Pottsboro was able to take nearly two minutes off the clock and was up seven before a putback by Lemons with 42 seconds remaining. The Tigers came up with a turnover on the ensuing possession and a chance to get even closer but gave it back to the Cardinals with 26 seconds left. Nix and Ryan Kennedy each hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.

Pottsboro had an eight-point lead early in the second quarter but found itself trailing at half-time. The Cardinals went more than five minutes between baskets by Cannon and the Tigers had an 8-0 spurt kicked off by a Pines three and ended on consecutive buckets from Lemons to tie the game at 23.

The lead changed hands twice in the final two minutes of the half and Dodson’s two free throws gave Gunter the slim 28-27 advantage at the break.

Cannon and Nix combined for 23 of Pottsboro’s first-half points while Pines and Lemons had 21 for Gunter.

Kenny Burkholder, the Tigers’ leading scorer, missed all eight of his shots in the game and hit just a single free throw.

“He’s the one that’s been lighting people up,” Nix said. “He lit us up for 27 the first time we played.”

Both teams got off to fast starts by riding a hot hand. Pines made four three-pointers in the first quarter to give Gunter a couple of early leads and Nix scored 13 points in the frame, hitting a trio of shots from deep.

The only other scoring from the Tigers was Burkholder’s free throw two minutes into the game and a bucket from Lemons.

Pines put Gunter up 13-12 with 3:29 left in the quarter before the Cardinals hit three straight shots for a 19-12 advantage.

The final three from Pines with 18 seconds left was answered by Cannon’s runner at the buzzer as Pottsboro held a 21-15 lead.

District 11-3A

Pottsboro                    56

Gunter                        50