Playing in the their first playoff game since 2004, the Bridgeport Bulls didn’t get to soak up the atmosphere before falling behind 16-3 in the first four-and-half minutes.
The Frisco Lone Star Rangers, champions of District 10-3A, kept pulling away in the first half, building a 26-point lead on the way to a 64-47 victory in the Class 3A Region II bi-district game Monday at Denton Ryan High School gym.
“The lights were just too bright for us in the beginning,” said Bridgeport coach Alan Green. “It’s hard to simulate what they do in practice. When you add the playoff atmosphere and their athleticism, it was a little too bright for us. It took us that first half to relax a little bit and just play basketball.”
After the tough first half, Bridgeport (12-17) trimmed the 26-point deficit to 13 in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. The Bulls doubled their shooting percentage in the second half and hit five 3-pointers. Alex Samples hit three treys in the second half and five for the game to finish with 17 points.
“In the second half, once we settled down and hit some open shots, we got back in it. It was just too late to get all the way back in it,” Samples said.
“The way we battled in the second half showed a lot of character by our guys. We fought hard. We have a lot of seniors. We put it all out on the court and were proud of how we finished.”
Samples was one of four seniors for the Bulls who wrapped up their careers with the program’s first playoff appearance in 10 years. Fellow senior Stephen Howdeshell finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“We’re never going to win the eye test,” Green said. “But the way they came back just speaks to their heart. They’re good-character kids. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to see them grow. I’ve known a lot these kids and coached them since they were in fifth grade.”
Lone Star set the pace early as Cameron Gooden hit a 3-pointer just 15 seconds into the game. The Rangers hit three treys in the first quarter, going 7-for-10 from the field. For the half, Lone Star shot 69 percent (16-for-23).
“A lot that was the lights were too bright. We were watching them play,” Green said. “We were not coming over to get charges and not going after the rebound. You have to give them credit. They are a good team.”
Bridgeport helped Lone Star by turning the ball over and creating opportunities in transition. The Bulls committed eight turnovers in the first quarter as they fell down 20-6 and went 2-for-9 shooting.
“We missed shots and had trouble handling their pressure,” Samples said. “They had more energy than us coming out, and we weren’t ready for it. Once we matched their energy, we were able to go back and forth for a while.”
Lone Star led by 23, 31-8, before back-to-back baskets by Howdeshell and Samples trimmed the deficit to 18. Lone Star then ended the half on an 8-0 run that included a pair of hoops each from Jonathan Clay and Zach Brown. Brown led Lone Star with 17 points.
Preston Schilling added 11, and Alex Wade 10 for the Rangers.