BY JON WALK
HOUSTON — It’s been said, “Defense wins championships.”
And maybe even a tournament or two along the way.
Lack of defense can also throw a little fuel on the fire.
Specifically on Saturday night with Dallas Bishop Lynch not getting a hand in the face of or a man on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi signee Jalen Clark after fouling him twice in the first period who — with guard Sahvir Wheeler – fueled a mad 17-4 third quarter run that paved the way for the Houston Christian Mustangs to win their own Mustang Classic with a 65-58 championship game win over the Friars.
The Friars, who started the week as the top TAPPS 6A/SPC school in Texas by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, fell to 15-2, while Houston Christian – ranked fourth – advanced their record to 11-3.
Clark led Houston Christian with 26 points – 13 in each half, while Northwestern signee Miller Kopp added another 19, but it was the defensive pressure in the backcourt by guards Noah Kon and Sahvir Wheeler that turned the game in the Mustangs’ favor.
While the duo of Clark and Kopp, who garnered All-Tournament honors with Wheeler, scored 11 of the Mustangs’ 13 points in the first quarter, Lynch led the first quarter by three, 16-13, with an array of weapons.
Senior guard Sean Coman bookended the Friars’ first-quarter by opening with a three-pointer from 21 feet out at the right angle and closing with a drive in the lane to draw a foul and connect on the free throw as guard Zach Rouseau and forward Russell Barlow both added a pair of baskets for Lynch.
Coman fed sophomore guard Jake Milkereit with a beautiful pass as he broke to the basket and Barlow dumped in a basket in the paint as Lynch pushed the advantage to six, 22-16 – its largest of the contest.
Clark, though, responded with a turnaround 12-foot jumper and then stepped outside the arc to nail a three that brought the Mustangs within one, 22-21, midway through the second quarter.
The Friars, though, kept up its aggressive attack of the basket as Zach Muller connected on a pair of free throws after being fouled driving to the basket.
Rouseau added another four – two with a drive in the middle lane and two free throws after getting fouled doing it a second time – and pushed the lead to six again, 30-24, with a minute to play in the half.
Senior guard D.J. Williams posted a layup and Clark slammed one home after breaking free from Rouseau’s pressure to close the margin at the half to two, 30-28.
Bishop Lynch opened the third quarter with a little inside-outside play.
The Friars held what would prove to be their last lead, 37-32, with 5:50 to play in the third quarter after Barlow and sophomore Darrius Miles both scored in the paint while Coman drilled a three from outside.
But the Mustangs’ man defense and backcourt pressure from Wheeler and Kon began to force numerous Friar errors.
Miles got called for three seconds after missing a slam.
Senior guard Steven Samuels took a traveling call after the Mustangs had cut the Friars’ lead to one, 37-36, with baskets by Wheeler and senior forward Blake Foley.
The Friars responded as Barlow stuffed Kopp as he tried to drive from the left baseline, but he slid to the right corner, took a pass from Wheeler and nailed a three to give the Mustangs its first lead, 39-37, since the opening of the first quarter.
A runner by Wheeler and a turnaround jumper by Clark quickly moved the margin to six, 43-37, with 2:31 to play in the third quarter.
The two teams traded buckets on multiple drives to the basket, keeping the Mustangs advantage at six until Barlow got called with a foul for hooking which setup a Clark jumper to allow Houston Christian to close the third period of play with an eight-point lead, 49-41.
The fourth period basically proved to be a draw – with Houston Christian pushing its lead to 11 twice at 54-43 and 57-46 and Lynch saving a double-digit loss with a last second three pointer by senior guard Jordan Buck to limit the Mustangs’ margin of victory to seven, the final 65-58 verdict.
Including a three-pointer from the right angle early in the fourth quarter, Mustangs senior guard Aidan Torres continued the backcourt harassment of Lynch point guard Zach Rouseau into the fourth quarter with Wheeler even after Noah Kon fouled out.
Lynch was led by Russell Barlow’s 15 points, which helped earn him All-Tournament honors, while Rouseau chipped in 11. Sean Coman earned the Friars’ other All-Tournament selection.
Lynch made it to the championship game after wins against Houston Second Baptist, Houston Victory Prep and Tomball Concordia Lutheran, while the Mustangs beat Fort Bend Christian Home School Association, Dallas HSAA Blue, Addison Trinity Christian and Houston Lamar.
BISHOP LYNCH – Zach Rouseau 11, Sean Coman 9, Jake Milkereit 2, Jordan Buck 5, Steven Samuels 6, Zach Muller 4, Russell Barlow 15, Darrius Miles 2. Totals 58.
HOUSTON CHRISTIAN – Sahvir Wheeler 11, D.J. Williams 2, Miller Kopp 19, Aidan Torres 3, Blake Foley 4, Jalon Clark 26. Totals 65.