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One-Man Gang: Randle drops 40 to lead Lions into TAPPS state finals
BY Matt Welch, email@example.com
MANSFIELD -- Prestonwood Christian Academy senior Julius Randle couldn't have worded it any better.
He was in the zone.
A zone that even Randle has rarely played in during his storied high school career and one that John Paul II eventually cratered under in a 55-48 Prestonwood victory Friday night in the TAPPS State Semifinals from Mansfield Timberview.
Randle, playing in just his fourth game since returning from a foot injury sustained in November, terrorized the Cardinals for 40 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in his penultimate high school game. The nation's No. 4 prospect made 18 field goals, including two from beyond the arc. By comparison, the rest of the Lions mustered just three and John Paul made 16 as a team.
Of the 40 points, not one was scored on a dunk. In addition to his standard array of overpowering post moves, Randle netted roughly half his makes on jumpers.
"With all the work I put in during the offseason I was really looking forward to the season, but unfortunately I got hurt," Randle said. "Now that I'm healthy and back to playing, this is a good feeling."
Despite all that, the Cardinals still found themselves trailing just 49-45 with 1:04 to play after a bank shot by senior Andrew Skelton.
But on a night when John Paul had no answer for Randle, the forward at last hammered the nail into the Cardinals' coffin after bolting coast-to-coast, eluding the defense and carving his way to the basket for an and-1 for points 38, 39 and 40 to give Prestonwood a 53-45 lead with 36 seconds left.
"Guys try to get up under [Randle] on the break all the time," Mayberry said, "and he did a good job of trying to avoid the charge with that euro step and finished the play. That was a big-time play."
A 3-pointer by senior Chandler Malone, who led the Cardinals with 15 points, pulled John Paul back to 53-48, but ultimately wasn't enough as John Paul's season was ended by the Lions for the third straight year.
"We didn't score very well," said Jacob Anderson, John Paul head coach. "We only had 48 points. [Randle] made a lot of shots, but we just couldn't hit any and we average around 60 points a game. I thought our guys did exactly what we told them to do; it was just unfortunate that the ball didn't go in when we needed it to."
The Cardinals seized control early while Prestonwood went cold from 3-point range.
The same didn't apply for senior Jason Martin, who piloted John Paul to an 11-9 lead after one quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers. A putback by Skelton, who scored 10 in the loss, would keep the Cardinals in front, 13-11, but that lead dissipated in 90 seconds after Randle connected from long range for a 17-15 Lions lead.
Including that make, Randle went on to score 29 of the Lions' next 41, including scoring 25 of Prestonwood's 30 points in the second and third quarters.
It was enough to give the Lions a 28-24 lead at halftime and a 39-36 edge after three quarters. A 3-ball by Malone tied the game at 39-39 to open the fourth, but a 6-0 run by Randle regained the Lions' momentum in a 55-48 victory.
That means a spot in the TAPPS State Championship Game for a fifth straight year. Awaiting the Lions Saturday is Fort Worth Nolan, slated for 6 p.m. from Mansfield Legacy.
"The guys wanted to get back again," Mayberry said, "and it looked bleak at times this year with the injuries we've had, but to get Julius back and for our team to rally to get these four wins since he came back has been fun."
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