In a game that was criti-cal for both teams, Sweet-water and Midland Green-wood played it close all the way in their District 4-3A boys game here Friday.
However, for the most part, the Mustangs held the lead — until the very end.
With his team trailing by two, 61-59, Greenwood’s Grant Franklin was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 9.4 seconds remaining and given three free throws.
Then, unfortunately for Sweetwater, Franklin — who poured in a game-high 35 points — made all three shots and a final shot by the Mustangs fell short at the buzzer as the visiting Rangers held on for a 62-61 win. It was a crushing loss for Sweetwater, which fell to 1-4 in district play (12-4 overall) while Greenwood improved to 2-3 in district and is now alone in fourth place at the halfway point of the district race.
Sweetwater held a one-point lead, 13-12 after one quarter and was up 31-29 at halftime. But it was 49-49 after three periods, thanks to an 8-0 Greenwood run that wiped out a 49-41 lead by the Mustangs. Sweetwater regained an eight-point advantage, 57-49, only to see the Rangers answer by going on a 10-1 run to take a 59-58 lead with 2:17 left on two Franklin free throws — he was 16-for-18 at the line.
However, Kaleb Hoover, who led Sweetwater with 19 points, was fouled and hit two throws at the 1:55 mark as the Mustangs regained a one-point edge. After Greenwood missed a shot to regain the lead, Sweetwater’s De’andre Gatson hit one of two free throws with 36.9 seconds remaining for a 61-59 lead. After regaining possession following a missed free throw by Greenwood, Sweetwater’s Dylan Bennett was fouled with 19.5 left, but missed both free throw attempts.
That set up the winning finish for Greenwood, which held only two leads the second half. Sweetwater managed to get it to Gatson for a potential game-winning shot, but it was short.
“They’d have a run, we’d have a run,” said Sweetwater coach Al Hunt. “They made their free throws at the end and we didn’t. Franklin is as good as they come in this district. If he’s not the MVP, I don’t know who is. Our kids fought hard and played defense. We just needed one more basket. I thought it was going to be our time, but we had a couple of shots that didn’t fall. We missed 15 free throws (out of 35 attempts compared to 23 of 30 free throws for Greenwood). That’s been our Achilles heel.”
Bennett and Michael Hunt each scored 10 points for Sweetwater, which had just 19 fouls to Greenwood’s 26 in the contest. The Rangers now have a one-game lead for the final playoff spot over the Mustangs, whose only district win was against Snyder, 45-40, on Jan. 14. Sweetwater hosts Monahans (4-1) on Tuesday and the team will then travel to Snyder (0-5) on Friday. Wylie (5-0) defeated Monahans, 79-72, on Friday to take over the outright lead in 4-3A while Big Spring (3-2) beat Snyder 33-21.
After Tuesday, Sweetwa-ter plays just one more home game — vs. Big Spring on Feb. 7. Rhett Torres had nine, Gatson eight, Jacob Peyton three and Marquees Jenkins two on Friday.