WILLIS — A deep, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Shey Eberwein lifted The Woodlands to a 56-53 win over Spring on Monday in the Region II-6A bi-district round at Willis High School.

The Highlanders (21-7) trailed by 16 points with 2:30 to play in the third quarter. After trimming the deficit to 10 at the end of the third, The Woodlands outscored the Lions 19-6 in the final frame.

“It took all of our guys’ effort,” coach Dale Reed said. “Our guys never quit and just kept fighting. Finally, we just started making some big shots. We didn’t hit 3s and missed a couple free throws in the first half. All of the sudden, we started doing that stuff and chipping away, chipping away. When we got close enough, (Spring) missed a couple free throws and layups and we took advantage of it. To have the ball tied and being able to take the last shot was what we wanted. If we weren’t going to win right there, we were going to win in overtime.”

With 11.2 seconds to go and the game tied at 53, The Woodlands dribbled down the clock to 2 seconds before calling a timeout. The buzzer-beating play that was drawn up saw Kylan Williams streaking toward the hoop, but he was well-covered. The inbounds pass from the sideline instead went from Isaiah Brown to Eberwein, who chucked up a shot from well beyond the arc and saw it fall.

“The play wasn’t set up for me,” Eberwein said. “The play was set up for Kylan. I think it was Hagen (Byerly) that came to set the screen and they were ready for it. I just stepped out and Isaiah trusted me. He gave it to me and I just knocked it down. It was a team effort and we got back into the game as a team. At halftime, the coaches made great adjustments and told us to keep playing.”

The Highlanders move on to the area round for the first time since 2018, where they will face District 16-6A champion Cypress Woods, a 69-43 winner over Klein Oak on Saturday. The area round game will be played at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Klein Cain High School.

Spring (15-10) jumped out to a 20-10 lead after the first quarter in the bi-district contest.

The Woodlands missed its first four shots from the field, but found itself within one point at 9-8 after a Brock Luechtefeld fadeaway jumper near the quarter’s midway point.

The Lions closed the frame on an 11-2 run that began with a 3-point play from Wade Autenreith and featured a 3-pointer each from Zaydin Walker and Leslie Newsome.

Newsome had 15 points to lead the Lions. Walker had 12 and Autenreith had 10.

“We were pretty eager,” Eberwein said. “We came out and weren’t playing to our potential in the first and second quarter. In the third quarter, we weren’t playing our best but we stuck with it and our teammates had great heart. Great adjustments by the coaching staff and great heart from the teammates. It was phenomenal.”

In the second quarter, the Highlanders put together an 8-0 run to pull within 22-18 and force a Spring timeout with 4:25 to go in the half. The run was capped by a bucket from Williams.

Spring led 33-26 at halftime.

The Lions connected on four 3-pointers in the third quarter and saw their lead peak at 47-31 when Zacorey Stewart hit his second of back-to-back 3s with 2:30 to go in the frame.

The Woodlands closed the quarter with buckets from Eberwein, Luechtefeld and Byerly to cut the deficit to 10.

“They had been hitting shots throughout the whole game and we weren’t, which is what got the separation,” Reed said. “In that fourth quarter, we made big shots and made big plays — we got big steals, blocks, rebounds. That’s what gave us a chance.”

In the final frame, The Woodlands didn’t pull within a bucket until Eberwein’s 3-pointer with 1:10 to play. A steal from David Omokwale got the ball back to the Highlanders, then Williams hit a 3 with 34 seconds to play to tie it at 53.

On the ensuing Spring possession, Williams had a block. The Lions did not possess the ball after the block and, after timeouts, The Woodlands ended the game with Eberwein’s 3. The shot gave The Woodlands its only lead of the entire game.

Luechtefeld had 19 points to lead The Woodlands. Eberwein had 16 and Williams had 13.

“It’s phenomenal to be a coach and to see kids grow and how much better we’ve gotten from the beginning of the season to now,” Reed said. “It’s why people coach. You love to see that growth and to see our kids get better and rely on each other and help each other. It makes this job so much fun.”

jmaskulinski@hcnonline.com

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