AUSTIN -- It's amazing how a game can go from a blowout to an instant classic in an eight-minute span. Flower Mound Marcus and Garland Lakeview Centennial, the UIL Class 5A state championship finalists, made watching basketball fun for the 13,476 in attendance Saturday evening.
After building a 20-point lead, losing that lead in a quarter and providing major-league dramatics in the closing seconds, Marcus left the Frank Erwin Center as Class 5A champions, edging Lakeview, 40-38, in one of the best games of the entire UIL state tournament. Marcus claimed its first-ever boys basketball state championship.
A game that appeared to be in Marcus' control from the jump turned into one that made Marcus coach Danny Henderson give the biggest advice of the season to his team.
"I told them all we had to do was win the fourth quarter, and we're state champions," Henderson said. "They had a heart-to-heart on the court, and they pulled it together."
Saturday's game was decided in the final seconds. Lakeview, trailing by two, got the ball back with 19 seconds left and set up a play. North Texas signee Chris Jones called his number and drove baseline to pull up a 10-footer, which just missed and avoided overtime. Marcus guard Marcus Smart pulled down the last of his 11 rebounds and, three seconds later, celebrated with his team at midcourt.
Smart was named the state championship game MVP for his efforts. He finished with 16 points, 11 boards and four steals. Smart also took a couple of key charges throughout the contest.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for God," Smart said, "and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for this group of guys. We believed in our system and played hard, and we came out with the win. Words can't explain what I'm feeling right now."
Few state finals go from boring to spectacular the way Saturday's game did. This was a game that once featured Lakeview with all of nine points for the entire first half. A team with four junior starters, Marcus outscored Lakeview, 19-2, in the second quarter and showcased its trademark defense that has made it a nationally ranked opponent.
Despite leading, 29-9, at the half, however, Marcus (39-1) found itself in a come-from-behind position early in the fourth quarter. A very determined Lakeview team rallied from 20 down to take a 34-31 lead at the 7:51 mark of the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Jones.
Lakeview, also a nationally ranked team, used its signature pressure defense to gain momentum and score baskets off transition opportunities. The Patriots (37-2) outscored Marcus, 22-2, in the third quarter to tie the score at 31 entering the fourth.
"We knew they were going to turn up the pressure. That's why they were 37-1," Henderson said. "I didn't know that they had another gear. Their defense is phenomenal. We were fortunate to trade shots with them in the fourth and make some stops to get the win."
Lakeview led by five with 6:01 left to play but Marcus outscored Lakeview, 9-2, in that span to walk away as champs. Late in the game, the team put the ball in the hands of Smart, who scored the team's final four points of the final minute to help the Marauders pull away.
"Lakeview is a great team. We knew they would come back," Smart said. "I think they wanted it more in the third quarter. It was going back and forth, and either team could have won, but we felt like our defense would help us. We feel like we have the No. 1 defense in the state."
Marcus made 46 percent (17 of 37) of its shots for the game. Smart was the only one in double figures in scoring for Marcus and rebounding for the entire game, but Connor Taggart, the lone senior starter, had eight points on a 4-for-6 shooting night, and Austin Bianco hit both of his attempts to have five points.
Jones led Lakeview with 17 points and four steals. Texas Tech signee Toddrick Gotcher and West Texas A&M signee Jamarlas Demas were held to a combined eight points and eight rebounds, as Lakeview shot only 29 percent (14 of 48) from the floor, which includes a 17-percent first-half showing (4 of 24).