By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – Getting into the playoffs under the tutelage of Lair Crawford has never been an issue for the Humble Wildcats.
Pushing past the opening round facing off against teams from District 22-5A in year’s past has been the thorn in Crawford’s side, falling in the opening round in three of his first four trips to the playoffs as the Wildcats’ head coach.
Facing Nederland on Tuesday in the bi-district round, entering the game as the No. 1 seed from District 21-5A after claiming the District Championship this season with a 17-1 record, Crawford and company were ready to not repeat history.
Behind Isaiah Longino’s team-leading 17 points and Kendrick Gathe’s 11 points the Wildcats were able to debunk the past with a 59-56 overtime victory to claim the program’s first playoff victory since 2014-2015.
Coming down the stretch Humble (29-6) was holding onto a slim lead, up 39-33 with 2:27 left in the game.
Nederland (20-10) continued to chip away at the Wildcats lead cutting it down to 41-37 with just 30 seconds left in regulation, eventually trailing 44-41 with just seconds remaining. The Bulldogs would force overtime on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
“They hit a shot on us at the buzzer right after we missed a wide open layup,” Crawford said. “So our guys were a little dejected going into overtime.”
Step in senior and three-year varsity member Longino.
In his potentially final game in the Humble purple, the senior wasn’t going down without a fight.
Putting the team on his back, Longino scored 13 of Humble’s 15 overtime points pushing him to 17 for the night and the Wildcats’ to a first-round victory.
“He stepped up his game and put us on his back and wouldn’t let us lose,” Crawford said. “That’s what a three year varsity starter should do and he came through for us.”
Watching his team fight back in overtime, Crawford said they showed a lot of mental toughness and registered quality defensive stands down the stretch to get the win.
Next test is No. 10 Fort Bend Marshall.
The Buffaloes are coming off a 117-52 victory against Sterling in the Bi-District Round, setting up a Top 25 showdown in the Area Round.
“It’ll be tough,” Crawford said. “They have a ton of weapons. We will have to take care of the ball too.”
No. 22 Humble and No. 10 Fort Bend Marshall will clash on Friday in the Region 3-5A Area Round.