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“Cardiac” Cardinals send Hawks out of the playoffs

VIDOR – Never underestimate the heart and fire of the Bridge City Cardinals.

The Hardin-Jefferson Hawks found that out the hard way Saturday at Vidor High School in the Class 4A Region III bidistrict playoffs.

Down 34-20 at the half after being outscored 20-2 by the Hawks in the second quarter, the Cardinals put together a fierce comeback, outscoring the Hawks 34-15 in the second half and Bridge City closed the door on the H-J season with a 16-3 spurt in the fourth quarter to win 54-49.

The Cardinals (18-9) were sparked by senior standout forward Gabe Castillo as he shredded the Hawk defense for a game-high 25 points and he also led the Cardinals with 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Senior guard Grant Boudreaux chimed in with 13 points. Junior Ethan Oceguera filtered in 11 points and ripped down nine rebounds while Austin Richardson added five points and six boards for the Redbirds.

The Cardinals will now move on to face either Wharton or Mickey Leland Academy in the area round next week.

Jai’den Porter led the Hawks (20-6), ranked No. 12 in the last Class 4A state poll,  with 16 points and had seven rebounds but never scored in the second half. Hawk post Austin Samaha had a double-double, tallying 14 points while grabbing 11 boards. H-J guard Baxter Wirth finished with eight points and eight boards.

The Cardinals chipped away at the H-J lead in the third quarter and then exploded past the Hawks in the fourth.

A three-point bomb by Castillo near the end of the third period trimmed the H-J lead to 46-38 heading to the fourth.

The Hawks led 49-45 with 3:26 remaining but never scored again as both Porter and Samaha barely touched the ball in the final eight minutes due to solid Cardinal defense.

Castillo trimmed it to 49-47 with a nice move inside with 3:22 remaining.

Castillo took it inside again to tie it at 49-49 with 1:30 left.

After H-J missed the front end of a one-in-one, Castillo put the Cardinals ahead to stay by draining two charity shots at the other end with 1:08 left.

The Hawks went into the bonus but could not cashed in as they missed four straight free-throws.

Boudreaux put the Cardinals up 53-49 with two free-throws with 0:26 left and he made one more to make it 54-49 with 0:14 left.

Both teams struggled from the line as Bridge City finished 12-of-24 and H-J was 12-of-23. The Hawks were just 1-of-7 from the line in the fourth period.

It was the Cardinals that got off to a hot start as they led 18-14 at the end of the first quarter as Castillo fired in nine points in the period and Oceguera buried two long three-pointers. Porter had seven points in the quarter for H-J.

Porter ignited a 20-2 Hawk spurt in the second period with nine points and H-J stepped up on defense as Oceguera scored the only Cardinal points on a nice drive.

The Cardinals, however, came out with radar focus in the third quarter in a fight to save their season and they passed with flying “red” colors.

Bridge City outscored H-J 18-12 in the period. Boudreaux penetrated through the lane and scored seven points in the run while Castillo had six points and Richardson canned a huge three-point shot. Samaha had his way inside for the Hawks in the period with eight points but both he and Porter were non-factors in the offensive scheme in the fourth.

Another key ingredient for the Cardinals was the way they handled the Hawk pressure defense. Bridge City finished with just seven turnovers.

H-J finished with a 38-30 rebounding edge. The Hawks finished with 10 turnovers.

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