THE WOODLANDS — Shots weren’t landing, and Lutheran South’s zone defense had The Woodlands Christian Academy staring at a nine-point halftime deficit Tuesday night in a TAPPS District 5-5A home game.
The Pioneers nearly played spoiler with the state champions from a year ago, but the Warriors got back in the game in the third quarter and held them off in the fourth for a 50-45 victory.
Despite a record that’s now 4-10 overall and 2-2 in league play, TWCA coach Tanner Field thought a team like Lutheran South could cause problems.
“Lutheran South is good,” Field said. “They’re always good; they’re coached well. They like to run their 2-3 zone, and they do it really well. I thought it was an opponent that would be sneaky for us. I really thought what would get us is that they would bait us into quick 3s. Which I don’t necessarily think we shot quick 3s — we just didn’t shoot the ball well.”
Lutheran South coach Andre White was pleased with his team’s effort.
“They battled,” White said. “Oftentimes, it’s one possession here and one possession there. That’s what we talk about. They gave great effort. It’s just about cleaning up possessions in games to close it out.”
Things went south for the Warriors (12-4, 3-0), ranked No. 2 in the state, in the second quarter. Dylan Johnson made a putback at the 7:31 mark, which turned out to be the last bucket by TWCA the rest of the quarter.
The Warriors shot 1 for 12 from the floor and 5 for 9 from the free-throw line as they trailed 28-19 at halftime.
Wyatt Mahner led the Pioneers with 12 points in the first half, including a trio of 3-pointers. Justin Rogers netted seven points.
“We talked about winning the game at the rim,” Field said. “Limiting our turnovers. We were 2 for 13 from 3-point land at half. That’s not really our M.O. If we shoot the ball, we’re great. But I think that’s any team in basketball.”
TWCA outscored the Pioneers 20-10 in the third quarter to lead 38-37 heading to the fourth.
A quick 5-0 spurt by the Warriors extended the lead, but Lutheran South got five straight points by their leading man on the night in Mahner. His drive to the hoop left TWCA with a 44-43 lead with 4:17 to play.
TWCA responded and went on a 6-0 run. Lutheran South didn’t make another bucket until there was a half-second on the clock.
A key factor in how close the game ended up being was the 19 turnovers by the TWCA starters, Field said.
Freshman Zion Pipkin led the Warriors with 16 points. Although just a freshman, he’s already proven to be a player to lean on offensively, Field said.
“We expect Zion to do that,” Field said of Pipkin, who scored 10 points against Cristo Rey on Friday.
Sophomore Wyatt Boeker added nine points, while Austin Benigni and Chanse Perkins each had eight.
“I feel like the problem with us tonight offensively was we were frustrated by the zone and not balanced offensively,” Field said. “We need our top three guys to shoot 40 shots and score 50 points for us. When they do that, we’re really good. Zion is one of those top three. It’s not a shock to us. He’s got to do it more consistently for us to be a top team in the city and state.”
Mahner led the Pioneers with 17 points, while Rogers and Braden Collins each had seven.
“We can take away that we can play with anybody,” White said. “When you play together and play as a team and play for each other — we can play with anybody in the city.”
The Warriors are back in action at 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Thomas. The team returns home at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Frassati Catholic for another district game.