|Roxton's late run downs Saltillo|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Feb. 27, 2004 -- PARIS -- Saltillo coach Joe Thomas congratulated each of his players individually on a great season as they filed out of the Paris Junior College gym dressing room Tuesday night. They were five minutes away from extending that season.
The Lions led Roxton by five points with five minutes to play, but Roxton's leading scorer Deion Sims, held scoreless for three quarters, ignited a 9-0 run that eventually led to a 58-54 victory in the Class 1A, Division II bi-district contest.
Sims scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to become one of five Roxton players to finish in double-figure scoring. He also had a team-high nine rebounds.
Saltillo (16-13) got a game-high 17 points and 18 rebounds from 6-6 senior post Colin Garmon, 14 points and 11 rebounds from junior forward Micah Payne, and 11 points from senior guard Micha Carr.
It was an end-to-end bucket from Garmon with five minutes to play that gave Saltillo a 46-41 lead, but Sims drove the lane on Roxton's ensuing possession, got fouled and started a 9-0 run that put Roxton ahead, 50-46.
"No. 30 (Sims), we held him in the first half to zero, then he got going somehow in the second half," Thomas said. "They made some adjustments, and we got in some foul trouble, and we just couldn't step up and stop him."
Sims made just two field goals -- the second came with 4:38 to play and tied the game at 46-46 -- but went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final two minutes.
The Lions were behind by four points, 56-52, when Carr forced a Roxton turnover which Miles Payne converted into a short jumper with 12 seconds to play that drew Saltillo to within 56-54. Sims, though, hit both free throws after Saltillo was forced to foul with 10 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach.
Sims was joined in double-figure scoring by Jeremy Thompson with 12 points, Brandon Stephenson with 10, Cord Franklin with 11 points and six rebounds, and Josh Duran with 11 points and eight boards.
The Lions, though, outrebounded Roxton, 39-34, and shot a much higher percentage from the floor (48 percent to 29 percent). Roxton, however, got off 15 more shots and hit 15-of-17 free throws, compared to 5-of-8 for Saltillo.
That difference in free throws really showed up in the second half.
In the first half, Saltillo came from 11 points down early in the second period to tie the contest at 28-28 at halftime.
Facing a 22-11 deficit with six minutes to play in the second period, Garmon scored on a fast break bucket to start a 17-4 run that finished out the half. Micah Payne was instrumental in the run, scoring eight points on a variety of jump shots and driving lay-ups.
When Carr knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side with 20 seconds to play, the Lions went into halftime tied.
"My seniors played really well, Colin Garmon and Micha Carr," Thomas said. "They played really inspired, and that's what we've been expecting all year. Micah Payne played really well. He hustled and gave us that spark, like he usually does."
The Lions were hurt by turnovers, committing 23, compared to 15 for Roxton, and two of those mistakes happened in the final two minutes when possessions were so important.
"Turnovers killed us. I've got some young guys handling the ball, and they've never seen any of this," Thomas said. "They're learning, but it's a tough time of year to be learning."
The Lions, who tied for the District 20-1A, Division II crown and went into the playoffs as the district's No. 2 seed, had a memorable season, the coach said.
"I'm completely proud of them. I'm proud to be their coach," he said. "I was walking up and down that sideline feeling that way because those guys play with those hearts. They play with pride, and I feel good about being their coach."