LUBBOCK- The wait is finally over.
After three plus decades and several tries coach Leslie Broadhurst and his Randall Raiders are headed to the University Interscholastic League state tournament for the first time ever.
The third time was also the charm against ISD rival, Canyon, as the Raiders earned a measure of revenge from two regular season defeats by beating the No. 8-ranked Eagles, 58-44, in the Region I-4A championship at the Rip Griffin Center.
This is well overdue for the veteran Broadhurst who started the Raiders program in 1988 when the school opened their doors. The only coach in boys’ basketball history, Broadhurst finally gets his time to shine on the big stage of the state tournament after nine tries with Randall in regional tournaments.
“This is an unbelievable moment,” said Broadhurst, who has 667 career wins at Randall. “This school has been fantastic to me and let me hang around. I’ve coached some unbelievable players, and this is for them as well. I had several text me and call me and tell me we were going to get it done. It’s special to be at the same school for so long and punch the ticket.”
Randall (29-9) will now focus on the Class 4A state tournament on Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Canyon, the District 3-4A champions, end a tremendous season at 31-3.
This was a much different feel from the previous two matchups the Eagles won. In the two Canyon victories, the Eagles controlled the pace and held Randall in check with two convincing wins. The first time the two teams met, Canyon won 59-50, then dominated the second matchup, 62-47. But this third meeting, the Raiders came out focused forcing Canyon to play at an up-beat tempo.
“The last game we played Canyon we got down 19-0,” Broadhurst said. “That was my fault. We weren’t ready. So I told the team that the first two was on me, but this game was theirs for the taking.”
The Randall players listened to Broadhurst and his pregame speech. Midway through the first quarter the full court pressure started to fluster Canyon, and Randall’s shooters got red-hot. The Raiders started breaking the game open closing the first quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 16-9 lead. That was just the start as Randall exploded on a 24-4 total run that lasted into the second quarter going up by a commanding 33-13 advantage late in the second, taking a 35-17 lead into halftime.
It wasn’t just superstar K.J. Thomas doing the work. Randall shot 60.9 percent from the floor (14-of-23) in the first half and torched the 3-point stripe going 6-of-13 (46.2 percent). Randall’s defense was equally impressive turning nine Canyon first half turnovers into 18 points.
“I feel like we came out more intense,” Thomas said. “We shot it well to start the game and really got in a flow and our defense won this game. I feel like we had a great game-plan and we executed.”
Randall didn’t shoot it near as well in the second half, but Canyon never got in a rhythm and were never able to cut the lead to double figures. Canyon closed the gap to 54-43 in the fourth, but the game was never in doubt for the Raiders.
“We didn’t have our A game,” Canyon head coach Travis Schulte said. “Our guys played hard but hats off to Randall. They played really well. They got the rebounds and shot it better than us.”
Thomas was named game MVP scoring a team-high 14 points going 3-of-7 from downtown and had five steals. Teammate Tayesen Combs was clutch on the defensive end with three steals, pulled down three rebounds and scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Canyon senior Kemper Jones finished with 17 points in his final game in an Eagle uniform.
Randall finished the contest forcing 12 Canyon turnovers turning those miscues into 22 points and outscored the Eagles 12-0 in fastbreak points.
“We were just into the game from start to finish,” Broadhurst said. “We just wanted to keep the pressure going throughout and not stop. We never folded and that was really big.”
Randall 16 35 46 58
Canyon 9 17 31 44
R- K.J. Thomas 14, Tayesen Combs 11. C- Kemper Jones 17, Gage Lunsford 10. Records: Randall 30-9; Canyon 31-3.