DONNA — They may be still dancing in Donna.
Despite a furious second-half comeback attempt from PSJA Memorial, Donna High did enough to escape with a 52-47 win in their Class 6A bi-district playoff matchup against the Wolverines on Tuesday night. The victory is Donna’s first in the playoff since the 2014-2015 season.
“It was one of my goals coming into high school to win a playoff game, and it feels like the greatest feeling in my four years here,” Donna senior Brandon Chavez said. “It feels good for the hard work to pay off, all the practices, coming early in the morning, the intensity, all the games — this is the greatest feeling.”
In order to cut down the nets and hoist a first-round trophy, Donna had to grind it out against the Wolverines.
Donna High (24-12, 10-4) stormed to an 18-point halftime lead behind suffocating defensive pressure and some huge makes from long range. Chavez came through with three devastating blocks that shifted momentum in Donna’s favor, and guard Eddy Epperson drained four first half 3-pointers to build their advantage.
“We were playing with energy. We knew we needed to come out strong and we played as one. We were moving the ball, getting open shots, and we dropped 30 in the first half,” Epperson said.
But with their backs against the wall, PSJA Memorial came out swinging during the second half. Seniors Chris Sierra and Jonathan Martinez sparked the Wolverines’ comeback as Sierra scored 17 of his game-high 19 after the break, while Martinez finished with 10 points for PSJA Memorial.
The Wolverines managed to cut the lead to just two points with three minutes left in the game, but a couple missed free throws, a missed layup, and clutch shot-making from Donna down the stretch led to PSJA Memorial falling just short.
“The heart of my kids, to go down the way they started the ball game, fight the way they did to get it within two, they showed a lot of heart. I’m very proud of my guys,” PSJA Memorial head coach Eric Steinbrunner said. “They could have given up at halftime, but they fought hard, came out and gave themselves an opportunity to win.”
PSJA Memorial was playing in only its second playoff game in program history. And while the first half may have not gone their way, the Wolverines fought and clawed back into the ball game. Still, the 2019-2020 season for the Wolverines compiled the best record in program history by winning 24 games.
As for Donna, it was its first playoff appearance since 2014-2015 when they reached the area round of the playoffs.
“My four years here, that was the goal and we finally reached it. We put in a lot of work, so it means a lot,” senior guard Trey Rodriguez said.
Now, the 2019-2020 Donna High squad is back in the area round.
“These kids deserve it. They hadn’t had a winning record, but they bought in, they believed, now it’s David vs. Goliath on Friday,” Donna High head coach Manuel Epperson said.
Donna High will face Corpus Christi Ray in the area round. Time, date and place have yet to be determined.