Both teams battled until the end of Friday’s game Brainerd and Hixson, but the visiting Panthers ultimately pulled out a 71-70 victory in both team's regular-season finale.
The Wildcats (10-17, 3-11 District 6-AA), who were pummeled by the Panthers 70-35 last month, battled throughout the tightly contested league game, but Brainerd’s athleticism was too much for head coach Alex Disdrow's team to overcome.
“We tried to make sure if they beat us they’d beat us by hitting shots over our head,” Disdrow said. “They wouldn't beat us on offensive rebounds, they wouldn't beat us on dribble penetration, they wouldn’t beat us inside what we call ‘the promise land‘ — the lane. If they were going to beat us they were going to beat us with shots over our head, and they did.”
Brainerd’s Orlando Moore led the charge for the Panthers with a team-high 23 points, while Jay Besley and Marques Tipton each added 14.
“Going into the (District 6-AA) tournament, I think this was great for us, and I’m sure Hixson feels the same way,” Brainerd head coach Robert High said. “You don’t want a lopsided game because it affects the minds of the kids, I guarantee it.”
The two teams swapped leads throughout the game, and neither side getting out in front by more than six.
“We battled like men,” Disdrow said. “I was very proud of their effort. I was very proud of them. It’s the type of game that can get away from you and get away from you quick.”
Hixson senior D’Mondta Smith scored a game-high 27 points on Friday, eclipsing the 1,500-point mark for his career on a second-half layup.
“I didn’t know it was coming,” Smith said. “It was a shock to me too; a big surprise.”
Robert Glass and Chandler Abbott each added 11 for the Wildcats, who knocked down eight 3-pointers in the contest, while Allan Diaz chipped in 11.
The Panthers closed out the season at 10-4, good enough for second place in District 6-AA, while Hixson ended the year at No. 7 with a 3-11 mark in league play.