Robert E. Lee guard Evan Tomlinson called it the best feeling ever.
With the Red Raiders leading North Mesquite 41-32 and 20 seconds left, Lee coach Alan Johnston called for a sub, enabling Tomlinson to walk off the court a final time to thunderous applause.
In his final high school game, Tomlinson provided a lasting performance. The senior finished with 20 points, nearly all of them on slashes to the basket to lead REL past North Mesquite, 41-32, on Senior Night Tuesday at Lee Varsity Gym.
“To walk off as winners and with everyone screaming my name like that, it was the best feeling I’ve ever had as a basketball player,” said Tomlinson, who was forced to play point guard because of an injury to fellow senior Jarrod Coleman. “At the same time, it was kind of sad because I knew I would never play again.”
Lee completed its season with a 17-14 record and finished 2-8 in District 11-5A play while North Mesquite finished 10-19 and also 2-8.
The Red Raiders held a three-point lead entering the fourth, but was clinging to a 31-30 advantage with three minutes remaining when Tomlinson brought Lee across the finish line.
First, Tomlinson split one of a multitude of traps he faced on the night and coasted in for a floater to make it 33-30. After a stop, Tomlinson drove hard to the basket and was fouled, sinking both free throws to make it 35-30.
Tomlinson then provided Lee’s play of the game, racing down the floor on a fast break, but just before he was about to lay it up, threw a behind-the-shoulder pass to sophomore Caleb Johnston for a layup and 37-30 lead.
Lee added two free throws from Tucker Boyd — finished with 10 in the win — before Tomlinson iced the victory. Leading 39-32 with under a minute left, Tomlinson broke free from the press and caught a football pass, calmly finishing with a layup.
“Both teams played their hearts out and Tomlinson played a great game from them tonight,” said North Mesquite head coach P.J. Randall. “We were trying to trap (Tomlinson), but we never seemed to get him in it. I look up and he’s shooting layups on us, so it didn’t work out to well for us.”
Lee and North Mesquite were eliminated from playoff contention before the game ever tipped off, but it did not hamper the intensity from start to finish.
Coleman began the game, but was immediately subbed.
North Mesquite, seeing Lee was without its court general, sent trap after trap at Tomlinson. It worked, with Lee finishing the first half with as many turnovers (13) as shot attempts. Despite Lee’s inconsistency, the Stallions managed to hit only 5 of 23 shots themselves to trail the Red Raiders 17-15 at halftime.
Six of Lee’s points were on dribble-drives from Tomlinson.
“I was really nervous (early on),” Tomlinson said. “Finally, I kind of settled in and my teammates helped me out and did the rest.”
Lee found its offense more in the second half with Tomlinson either scoring himself — totaled eight points in the third period — or finding Boyd as Lee led 28-25 entering the fourth.
The Red Raiders lose Coleman, Tomlinson and Clint Prewitt to graduation, but return three starters, led by the team’s leading scorer, Taylor Tankersley.
Johnston said the seniors will be missed as REL looks to improve for next season.
“We’ve been staying with teams, we just haven’t closed out basketball games; we’ve been losing out in the war of attrition,” Johnston said. “What we have to think about is not just having seven players, we need that eighth and ninth guy. You need depth at the 5A level and I think we are going to have that with this team we are going to put on the court next year.”
Robert E. Lee 41, North Mesquite 32
North Mesquite 7 8 10 7 — 32
Robert E. Lee 7 10 11 13 — 41
NORTH MESQUITE — King Davis, 2; Mike Williams, 2; Reggie Surrell, 2; Emory Blackburn, 0; Stevin Moses, 0; Thomas Oberg, 0; Darik Walker, 15; Eric Murray, 3; Kendall Copeland, 8. FG: 12-42. FT: 8-12.
ROBERT E. LEE — Jarrod Coleman, 0; Austin Fleet, 0; Brandon Tucker, 0; Evan Tomlinson, 20; Luke Derfus, 3; Taylor Tankersley, 7; Jarred Williams, 0; Will Dougherty, 2; Caleb Johnston, 2; Tucker Boyd, 10. FG: 15-32. FT: 13-16.
THREE-POINT GOALS — NM (0-10): None. REL (1-9): Boyd.
RECORDS — North Mesquite 10-19 (2-8); Robert E. Lee 17-14 (2-8).
NEXT UP — Both teams season complete.