With 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s District 8-A game against Central Catholic, Highland Baptist boys basketball coach Kaleb Gardner gathered his seniors together on the sideline.
Although his team was in the process of dropping an 82-49 loss to CCHS, Gardner urged his seniors to go ahead and put this game in the rearview mirror as soon as the buzzer expired.
That’s because HBCS has a do-or-die game today at home against Centerville in the regular season finale.
“If we win, we’re in the playoffs,” said Gardner, whose Bears currently project as the last team to reach the Division IV postseason as a No. 16 seed.
“If we lose, it’s not likely that we’ll make it. We’re in control of our destiny.”
In their first meeting with Centerville, the Bears secured a 50-46 road win vs. the Bulldogs (6-12, 3-5), who are on the Class A playoff bubble at No. 17.
“Centerville always plays well in their gym,” Gardner said. “We had to come back from a deficit.
“They have a really good, 6-foot-3 guard who scored 20 on us. They also have a 6-4 post player who is very physical. He hurt us on the offensive glass last time. He rebounds well.”
Gardner said the Bears (15-10, 5-4) bounced back with a good practice session on Thursday.
“I told them to regroup,” he said. “We have one more game. We need to learn from our mistakes.
“We came out flat against Central Catholic and didn’t execute well. Our opponent had a perfect storm, too. They had a kid (Vernon Singleton) come off the bench and hit five 3-pointers in one quarter.”
Central Catholic (17-4, 8-0), which is currently No. 6 in the unofficial Division IV power rankings, beat the Bears 54-44 in Morgan City last month.
“We played at the pace Central Catholic wanted to play instead of our pace on Wednesday,” Gardner said. “But I felt like we had a good, intense practice today for the Centerville game.
“It’s really a playoff game. I’m thrilled about it and the boys are excited. It’s also Senior Night. We made the playoffs two years ago so we have that experience in our back pocket.”
Ty Olivier was a bright spot in Wednesday’s loss. The freshman totaled 17 points with 11 coming in the third quarter.
“Ty did a good job of finding weak spots in their zone,” Gardner said. “He was slashing to the rim and did a good job penetrating. It’s really encouraging for our future because he’s only a freshman.”
Myles Liggans added 9 points for the Bears.
Central Catholic was paced by point guard Tyler Smith with 21 points.
Singleton finished with 20 points and D.J. Lewis had 14 for the Eagles.