GANADO - Hallettsville survived, but not by much.
In fact, three seconds might have made all the difference.
With 7.57 seconds remaining in a two-point game, Hallettsville senior Trevor McGee missed a free throw, giving Van Vleck an opportunity to win with a 3-pointer.
Instead of immediately calling time out after collecting the rebound, however, the Leopards allowed approximately three seconds to elapse off the clock, leaving just 3.42 seconds to get off a shot.
The Leopards (26-7) were able to advance the ball and get within range for a decent attempt, but De'Drion Dennard's last-second heave did not fall, and the Brahmas (26-6) escaped their Class 2A regional quarterfinal game with a 45-43 win at the Ganado gym, advancing to the regional tournament for a third consecutive season.
After the game, McGee was relieved to have survived the hard-fought contest.
"First thing I thought was 'Man, my dad is going to rag on me so hard,'" the senior said of the missed free throw. "After the initial 'Oh, man, he is going to kill me,' I was just like 'Oh gosh, what have I done?'
"Then, they didn't call time out until three seconds left, and that lifted my spirits."
The Leopards never led after holding an 8-5 edge in the first quarter, but they forced four ties in the second half and were even at 41 with 1:21 remaining.
But McGee hit a shot and Dazaun Silgero connected on two free throws, giving the Brahmas a four-point advantage with 28.97 seconds left.
Moments later, Dennard scored the final of his game-high 17 points to pull the Leopards within two points, but they could get no closer as McGee was sent to the line, setting up the game's curious ending.
"(The difference between having three seconds and six seconds) is a huge difference," said Van Vleck coach Joseph Davis. "Having six seconds is like having four or five dribbles.
"I don't think it made it any more difficult. I think we still got the shot we wanted, we just didn't hit it."
The shot was not at all what Hallettsville coach Steven Davis was hoping for, though.
"In a game like this, every second matters," Davis said. "They got a good inbounds pass and got a much better shot off than I wanted them to.
"(During the timeout), I told them that if they want to pass it backward, that's fine. They can go backward all day long, but, of course, they got the perfect pass and went forward."
If anybody was going to take the final shot for Van Vleck, Dennard was the best choice. Despite making just five of 17 field goal attempts, the junior guard scored all 10 of the Leopards' fourth-quarter points.
Hallettsville senior Anthony Vesely scored a team-high 16 points, while McGee finished with 14 points. The duo scored all but eight of the team's 27 second-half points.
After suffering an ankle injury in the team's win against Tidehaven on Friday, Vesely made three of six 3-pointers against Van Vleck to go along with six rebounds.
"The adrenaline just went through me, and I couldn't even feel it," Vesely said.
Hallettsville awaits the winner between Santa Rosa and Skidmore-Tynan. Regardless of their opponent, the Brahmas will open regional play Friday at 6 p.m. at the Seguin High gym.
"All odds were really against us, losing four starters and our coach," McGee said. "Just for people to step up and play good, it is huge.
Having the leadership that we've had this year, people are just stepping up who never had varsity experience. It has been a blessing."
Early, the teams were struggling to score.
Hallettsville held a 9-8 lead following the first quarter, and the Brahmas went into halftime ahead 18-15.
But the matchup between a pair of Top 25 ranked teams opened up in the third quarter as Van Vleck outscored Hallettsville 18-15 and the game was tied at 33 going to the fourth quarter.
The Brahmas constructed a five-point advantage on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but the Leopards used a 6-1 run to tie the contest at 41 with one minute remaining.
"It came down to execution and taking care of the ball," Joseph Davis said.
According to Vesely, it all came down to the three seconds that Van Vleck did not have during its final possession.
"We do a "hero drill" and it is hard to run all the way down the court in three seconds," he said. "We usually have to pull up for a 3-pointer and it is off balance.
"It is really tough to get a good, solid shot off in three seconds."