As Derek Cain walked off the court at the Andrew J. Hopkins Activity Center on Friday evening, his first season as the head coach at Magnolia came to a close.
What a ride it had been.
The Bulldogs saw their campaign come to a close with a 49-44 loss to District 17-5A champion Whitehouse in the Region III-5A area playoffs.
It came on the heels of the program's first postseason victory since the 2011-12 season earlier in the week when the Bulldogs trounced Cedar Park to advance.
Despite the loss, Cain was proud of what his team was able to accomplish this season. The Bulldogs finished second in a competitive District 20-5A with a 12-2 record and made the playoffs for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons.
"I told the guys in the locker room that I'm going to strive my whole career to create the culture that we have with those guys," Cain said. "Everybody plays for each other, everybody cares for each other, and I just think they're an awesome group of kids. They have overcome a lot, they've achieved a lot, won a lot of games, and it's all due to those kids and the hard work they put in all year long."
Magnolia (24-10) led only once - for about a minute in the first quarter - as the Wildcats slowed the pace of the game and held the Bulldogs at arm's length throughout the contest.
The 44 points scored was a season low for Magnolia, and Whitehouse (27-6) made just enough plays down the stretch to pull out the triumph. The Wildcats are headed back to the regional quarterfinals for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Whitehouse will play Pflugerville Connally (19-9) early next week.
Griffin Lahners led Magnolia with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Evan Palmquist finished with 10 points, Jackson Moffatt had nine, and Josh Larramendi added seven.
Point guard Javier Neal, a North Texas football signee, led Whitehouse with 18 points. McKade Marquis collected 16 points, including four 3-pointers.
"They scored 75, 76 points Tuesday night, and in a lot of their big wins, they were scoring a lot of points," Whitehouse coach Brent Kelly said of Magnolia. "We knew we had to win the game with defense and just do enough on offense. Our shooters hit some shots, Javier was able to get to the rim and do some things, and we just did enough to get by."
Whitehouse opened the game on a 7-0 burst and held the Bulldogs scoreless until the 4:14 mark when Eric Larramendi knocked down a 3 to finally put his team on the board.
Despite the slow start, the Bulldogs knotted the game at 7 with a pair of free throws from Palmquist and took their first lead of the game at 10-9 as Moffatt collected three points with an and-1 layup and free throw.
Whitehouse took a 14-10 lead in the second period and went ahead by as many as eight points with 4:48 on the clock after back-to-back 3s from Marquis.
Magnolia fought back once again and pulled within two points of the Wildcats with a 7-0 spurt, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would get as Whitehouse reached the intermission with a slim 27-23 advantage.
Marquis led the Wildcats at the break with a game-high 13 points with three 3-pointers.
"When he hits shots, we're pretty good," Kelly said. "We didn't shoot it well Tuesday night - we kind of struggled. But he was in the zone a little bit, hit some big shots in the first half, hit one there in the corner in the third quarter. Like I said, when he shoots it well, we're pretty tough to beat."
Magnolia began the third quarter by committing five turnovers and missing its first three shots. The Bulldogs did not connect on an attempt from the field until Lahners nailed a 3 with just 3:17 remaining in the period.
Still, Magnolia trailed by just two possessions at 39-34 entering the fourth. Whitehouse continued to wind the clock with long possessions and ultimately prevailed with the final result it was looking for.
The Bulldogs could never quite get into a consistent rhythm offensively, shooting at a 37 percent clip for the game and committing 1... Click here to read full article