WOLFFORTH — Answer back.
Following a 14-4 run from No. 20 McLennan to begin Friday's Region V semifinal matchup, South Plains head coach Steve Green signaled for a timeout.
The message over the next 30 seconds seemed to resonate with his team, as the Texans answered the call with a 20-8 barrage capped by a Jordan Brangers' 3-ball to put South Plains on top 24-22, as they went on to defeat the Highlanders 85-76 Friday at the Tiger Pit to advance to the Region V championship game Saturday at 2 p.m. against No. 7 Odessa.
"For the past 48 hours, it seems like our guys were shot out of a cannon," Green said. "Today, I don't think we expected the 3-point barrage even though we told them that's what they could do. I was really shocked it was 14-4, and it happened fast. To our guys' credit, they stayed composed and started chipping back and got right back in it, fast."
Leading 34-32 at the midway point, Ben Perez knocked down a triple from the right wing with 18:55 to go to put the Texans up four, 39-35. The Highlanders (27-5) recaptured the lead thanks to a 6-0 run as Xavier Armstead connected on a 3-pointer to put McLennan up 41-39. Brangers would eventually tie the game at 46 all with a 3 from the top of the key with 15:34 left in the second half.
"Being able to hit some shots from that deep and get my stroke back felt good," said Brangers, who led all scorers with 32 points and tied his career high with 10 3s. "Once you see the ball go in one time, it starts to feel like it's going to go in every time, and coach Green gives me the freedom to come down and make shots. You have to credit Isaiah (Maurice) who was able to score down low and open up the outside."
Leading by three with just over 10 minutes remaining, Maurice connected with a 12-foot jumper to put South Plains (22-8) up 60-55. Brangers would connect once again from the outside, draining a 3 with 8:59 left to extend the lead to 66-57. Following a layup from Armstead which brought McLennan within four with 5:45 to play, Maurice chipped in a turnaround jumper from 10-feet to put the Texans up six with 3:55 left.
"We're playing our best basketball right now, and this is exactly what we need," Maurice said. "I left too many points at the free throw line, but it's tough playing both sides of the floor for 40 minutes. When Jordan shoots from that far out it spaces the floor and the defense has to respect him which opens up the inside and allows us to get better position."
South Plains would go on to take an 84-76 lead on a Keith McGee 3 with 34 ticks left, picking up their sixth win in the last seven games including their second win over a top 25 program this season. The Texans shot 57.4 percent from the floor over 40 minutes and were 16 of 25 from the 3-point line.
Maurice finished with a career-high 26 points and nine boards, knocking down 11 of his 14 attempts from the field. Brangers finished 10 of 17 from the field and was 10-for-15 from the perimeter. McGee netted 10 points to go along with six assists and four boards while Christopher Orlina chipped in seven points and dished out eight assists.
"I was watching Kansas and Oklahoma State yesterday and Oklahoma State came out and just started knocking down 3s," Green said. "Kansas kept playing their game and I think went ahead at the half and obviously went ahead and won, so I guess I was channeling my inner Bill Self."
Saturday's Region V championship matchup will be streaming live at spctexans.com and can be heard on KLVT Radio Levelland AM1230, with pregame set for 1:45 p.m. Saturday's winner advances to the 2018 NJCAA Men's Basketball National Tournament March 19-24 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kansas.