DALLAS – Senior Mike Davis and the Dallas Skyline Raiders breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the buzzer sounded Tuesday night.
Garland had cut a 15-point deficit to one with 4:10 remaining, but Skyline held on, 63-57, to win a brutally physical Class 5A Region II bi-district boys basketball playoff game at Dallas Conrad High School.
Skyline (25-8) advances to face the winner of Wednesday’s game between DeSoto (31-3) and A&M Consolidated (22-12).
“Whoo! That was close,” said Davis, who led the way with 26 points, five rebounds and seven steals. “I’m grabbing for air. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. The refs let us play, so we had to be physical and tough.”
Davis, who is better known as a top wide receiver recruit for the Texas Longhorns, reigned on the basketball court in a game that played out like a ping-pong match. With both teams pressing all game, Skyline committed 35 turnovers and Garland (22-9) coughed the ball up 32 times.
After seeing Garland Lakeview Centennial stymie Garland in the regular-season finale using its vaunted press, Skyline head coach Stanford Hill copied the tactic.
“I saw that Garland didn’t handle pressure well,” Hill said. “They only had two people that could really hurt you scoring wise -- 10 [senior point guard Marcus Thompson] and 23 [senior post Emmanuel Okoroba]. Ten is a real go-getter, and he can really hurt you. That was our whole plan, to take him out.”
Thompson could not find his game and only managed four points, four steals and five assists. Okoroba had 14 points and eight rebounds, but he struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 8-of-17. Skyline sophomore post Zach Leday kept Okoroba from establishing his inside presence, finishing with eight points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
In the end, the Skyline press didn’t stop Garland, but the Owls' free throw shooting did. Garland managed to hit only 20-of-34 free throws in a game it lost by just six points.
Down 46-31 with 3:15 left in the third quarter, Garland took over with the defense of Thompson, speedy freshman guard TaTa Green and long-armed junior shooting guard Jonathan Walter leading the rally. Skyline had trouble getting the ball past midcourt, and the Owls closed the quarter on a 10-0 run. Walter finished with a team-high 16 points and six steals.
Garland kept pouring on the pressure in fourth, and Green had a chance to put the Owls on top with four minutes left, but his layup went in and out. Davis followed with a layup on the other end, and Garland never got as close again.
Hill used Davis’ prowess on the football field to help break the Garland press. Davis was sent deep as if on a fly pattern, and the Raiders hit him for bombs behind the Garland defenders like so many defensive backs on Davis’ highlight reel.
The tactic worked for a layup to close the first quarter and twice worked to get the ball up court in the fourth quarter.
“He showed that All-American wide receiver skill,” Hill said. “We try to take advantage of our athleticism.”