Ralph Watts had no idea that he drained the shot of the season for the Tigers. Not until his 3-point prayer banked off the backboard and through the net as the buzzer sounded.
The result, a heart-stopping 52-49 victory over Class 3A No. 17-ranked Fairfield that propels Corsicana into the District 16-4A season with an improbable 18-4 record.
Watts’ improbable shot, mainly because it came as the clock was running out and from at least three feet behind the 3-point arc, wasn’t the look the Tigers were planning on when coach Don Newton called timeout with :14.1 seconds left.
But Watts caught a pass near the Tigers bench, saw the clock and launched a prayer that was answered. He was mobbed by his teammates at midcourt.
“It was a relief,” Watts said. “I’ve been struggling.”
Watts, playing in his second game after missing 22 games with a shoulder injury, capped a 13-1 run as the Tigers rallied from a 48-39 deficit with 5:30 left in the game.
Defense set up the dramatic comeback for the Tigers. Down nine and seemingly on the way to a painful loss — Corsicana led for three quarters — pressure defense created three straight steals.
Corsicana cashed in as Mike Lewis nailed a 3-pointer and Watts made a layup to make it 48-45 with 3:12 left in the game.
After the teams traded free throws, Tigers guard Dzifa Mallet drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 49-49 with 1:51 left. Mallet scored 13 points and had one of the steals.
“It was a great win,” Mallet said. “We played with great character. We were down nine and we played hard all the way to the end.”
Fairfield missed two free throws with a chance to retake the lead with 1:35 left, and the Tigers ran the clock all the way down.
They took two timeouts, one with 38 seconds left and the other 14 seconds left.
“That was our best win of the season,” Newton said. “We flat out got outplayed for the first eight to 10 minutes of the second half. That’s a good team. They know how to play.”
The Tigers led 13-4 after the first quarter and 22-16 at halftime. But Fairfield got hot to start the third quarter, going on a 12-3 run to tie the game at 25-25 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles took their first lead of the game at 37-35 on Aaron Heers’ 3-pointer with two seconds left in the third quarter.
Then Heers and Cooper Cole kept making shots and with the help of their teammates built the lead to 48-39.
That’s when the Tigers responded with their press, got the momentum back and set up Watts for his clutch shot.
“We made some shots,” Newton said. “We didn’t back down.”
Corsicana 52, Fairfield 49
Fairfield 4 12 21 12 — 49
Corsicana 13 9 13 17 — 52
Fairfield — Cooper Cole 10, Aaron Heers 15, Jacob Gallegos 2, Alex Ward 5, Aaron Cain 8, Bryson Gates 9.
Corsicana — Dzifa Mallet 13, Tim Lang 6, Mike Lewis 14, Ernest McGhee 6, Lathan Carter 4, Alonzo Gipson 2, Ralph Watts 7.
Records — Fairfield 10-5, Corsicana 18-4.