The Unicorns stifled Clemens at every turn Tuesday night at home while stampeding their way to a one-sided 53-33 triumph in District 26-6A play.
New Braunfels (20-7, 3-3) converted its defensive effort into easy buckets in transition all game long and twice held the visiting Buffaloes under 10 points for an entire quarter. The Unicorns’ 2-3 zone look frustrated Clemens, which often settled for long jump shots that rarely found their mark.
From there, it was off to the races for New Braunfels, which controlled the boards and piled on plenty of fast-break points as a result.
“We knew we were going to win the game off of defense, so we just rebounded it and pushed it,” senior Eli Datesman said. “That’s how you beat a press — you get the ball in the middle, you kick it and you get wide-open layups.”
Datesman was part of an early parade to the rim for the Unicorns, as he, Jack Lewis, Mason Pullen and Grant Jacobs all converted transition opportunities in the early going. New Braunfels took an 11-6 lead after Datesman tallied a steal and a layup, and moments later, Zach Gomez-Villanueva tossed a perfect alley-oop pass to Pullen for an emphatic slam.
The surge continued prior to halftime with a 12-0 run in the second quarter that featured baskets from Lewis, Datesman, Pullen and Sam Rankin, who knocked down a 3-pointer following a nice look from Jacobs.
The Buffs’ Caleb Jones, who led his team with 14 points on the night, tried to keep Clemens afloat by answering with five straight points of his own, but Datesman and Jackson Reid each connected on treys to help the Unicorns take a 33-18 edge into the half.
New Braunfels later led by as many as 25 while cruising to the win.
“We did a really, really good job of getting back on defense and challenging them at the rim and using our length,” New Braunfels head coach David Brawner said. “I thought for most of the game we did a really good job of contesting. We knew they’d shoot a ton of 3s and we didn’t give them very many open ones. We did a good job of rebounding the basketball. They didn’t have a lot of second shot opportunities.”
Pullen finished with a game-high 21 points and Datesman provided 13 in the blowout victory. Jacobs and Reid each tallied five points, while Lewis posted four.
The Unicorns have now fought back to .500 in district play and are once again in the thick of the playoff conversation.
“We knew that our first four games were going to be more difficult than some of the other teams, so it was about staying positive,” Brawner said. “We knew there was a five-game stretch here in the middle where we could figure out ways to get back in this.”
Datesman and his teammates hope their climb up the 26-6A standings will continue later this week when they make the short trip to Spring Branch.
“We kind of have momentum now, so we’re going to take that to Smithson Valley on Friday,” Datesman said.