All the emotion, talent and pride were on display as would be expected Friday night at Randall Gym in a clash between two Canyon ISD boys basketball teams both ranked in the top 20 and more importantly, fighting to stay unbeaten atop District 4-4A.
And in a game where nobody enjoyed a lead in double digits, it came down to who finished up strong.
That was No. 7 Canyon, reacting to a somewhat hostile road environment by dominating the last two minutes. The Eagles scored the last 10 points of the game and put away the win at the free throw line for a 59-50 victory which kept them unbeaten atop 4-4A.
They survived an epic night by Randall’s K.J. Thomas, who had a game-high 33 points, including six 3-pointers. The difference was, Canyon (16-2, 3-0 in district) didn’t rely largely on one player.
When Thomas hit a 3-pointer to give No. 20 Randall (14-8, 2-1) a 50-49 lead, Canyon’s Evan Hughes answered back with a three of his own on the next possession to give the Eagles a 52-50 lead and they never trailed again.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Evan,” Canyon coach Travis Schulte said. “A lot of people don’t remember that Evan scored 10 in the region final last year off the bench. Evan can hoop. I’m proud of him. Dealing with K.J. all night, none of us here want any part of that.”
Thomas actually scored more than Canyon’s top two scorers combined, Hughes (15 points) and Ian Armstrong, who came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 16 points. They also had two other players who scored eight points.
As sensational as Thomas was, hitting shots so far from outside it seemed he’d need a ticket to get back in the gym, he got little help. Randall’s next highest scorer was Tayesen Combs, who came off the bench to score six points on a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Thomas had 12 points in the third quarter to keep the Raiders in the game. It seemed, though, that Hughes answered when Thomas made a three, as Hughes hit three 3-pointers to make a statement.
“Going into this game we knew that was kind of (Thomas’) game,” Hughes said. “He was going to shoot deep threes and make them. Together as a team we were trying to rack up the points however we could get them. We want to start by giving it to the bigs but (the Raiders) kind of figured that out so our guards stepped up and hit threes.”
Actually, Hughes was the only one who hit any threes for Canyon, as his five treys accounted for all his points. By contrast, Randall hit nine from beyond the arc.
The biggest difference in the game shooting wise, though, was at the free throw line. After Hughes gave the Eagles the lead, they hit 7-of-8 free throws to salt away the game.
Randall, though, hit only 7-of-19 free throws for the game, which came back to bite the Raiders.
“We missed 12 free throws and that was a big factor for us,” Randall coach Leslie Broadhurst said. “We normally shoot close to 70 percent. It was our game plan to try to get (Thomas) some shots and he got some. All of us can be a little better but I thought the guys did things we wanted them to do other than free throws.”
The two teams meet again on the last day of January in Canyon with a possible district title on the line. That game will have a hard time matching this one.
“This was a great high school basketball game,” Schulte said. “Hats off to all those guys. Coach Broadhurst and his staff I thought had an incredible game plan. Our kids adjusted on the fly and figured it out.”
Canyon 12 23 43 59
Randall 11 21 41 50
C– Ian Armstrong 16, Evan Hughes 15. R– K.J. Thomas 33, Tayesen Combs 6. Records: Canyon 16-2, 3-0; Randall 14-8, 2-1.
District 4-4A scores
West Plains 10 25 36 44
Hereford 16 23 30 35
WP– Ayden Rodriguez 12, Wiley Killham 8. H– Duque 8, Gonzalez 6. Records: West Plains 14-8, 1-2; Hereford 15-3, 2-1.
Dumas 9 26 46 68
Perryton 21 39 60 78
D– Gomez 13, Lawrance 12, Estrada 11. P– Julian Cervantes 27, Tad Pshigoda 17, Aiden Tarango 15, Dayton Rigdon 14. Records: Dumas 16-7, 0-3. Perryton 10-6, 3-0.
Pampa 12 25 39 62
Borger 19 33 47 66
P– Skinner 25, Brock 12, Abizo 10. B– Wootin 18, Jennings 14, Fernandez 11, Clements 10. Records: Pampa 13-8, 0-3, Borger 8-15, 1-2.