Everything went right for Baylor in the closing minutes of Thursday’s game against visiting Howard, and the Red Raiders needed every advantage they could muster.
But a clutch 3-pointer by freshman Gage Upshaw, a lucky break at the free-throw line and the go-ahead basket by senior Matt Clendenen with 14.9 seconds still weren’t enough to seal a win.
Baylor (3-1) did that on the defensive end, against the Hustlin’ Tigers’ towering center Brandon Walters, in the game’s final moments.
Walters, who finished with a game-high 28 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots, had his way in the paint throughout the closely-contested game.
“I felt like he was going to get his points,” Baylor head coach Austin Clark said. “You just have to pick your points – those are just two points – so that was kind of the plan. We needed to do a better job on the glass, because he was killing us with second-chance points.”
It was Clendenen who had the last laugh, though, blocking the 6-8 senior’s last-second shot attempt to seal the 49-48 victory.
“I thought we had great desire and passion tonight,” Clark said. “I don’t think we executed as well as we need to, but that’s our fourth ball game of the year. That was a big win against a quality program.
In a game with six ties and 16 lead changes, not much separated the two sides, but Howard snatched the lead on Walters’ put back late in the third quarter and led for the first seven minutes of the fourth.
Upshaw’s 3-pointer in the final minute tied it at 49-49, and instead of Baylor taking its chances on defense, Clark decided to intentionally foul Walters and put the big man on the line.
“When we were tied and had to foul, it wasn’t a sure thing,” Baylor’s Guissani Amedeo said. “They could have made both free-throws and put us down two, but we believed. We just kept playing and fought until the end. That was the result.”
Walters connected on the front end of his one-and-one, but his second attempt bounced out, and Baylor cashed in with an easy layup in transition at the other end.
Amedeo, a junior from Switzerland, led the Red Raiders with 15 points, Clendenen had 13, while Upshaw and Clay Born each added seven. It was the second game Baylor was without senior Reggie Upshaw, who re-injured his leg in the team’s 60-57 win over Franklin Road Academy last Saturday.
Upshaw, who originally injured himself on the football field, will have surgery on the broken leg Friday, and will miss four to eight weeks of action.
The Tigers (6-1) scored most of their points in the paint Thursday as Walters and four man Xavier Curry (10 points) were the only two players to score in double figures.
“We didn’t follow directions,” Tigers coach Walter McGary said. “There is no way that team should have been close to us. We weren’t capitalizing because everybody wanted to be a hero.”
Howard’s District 6-AA schedule resumes Friday at Central, while the Red Raiders return to action next Tuesday against Bradley Central.
Baylor girls 53, Howard 35
Kaleigh Clemons scored a team-high 12 points to lead the Lady Raiders in Thursday’s lopsided win over Howard, while Crosby Huckaday (11) and Abby Hubert (10) also finished in double figures. The Lady Tigers, who trailed 30-18 at the break, were led by Deionesha Smartt’s game-high 19 points.