The four Mount Pleasant Tigers’ historic seasons stopped abruptly last Friday as they fell to No. 8 Forney 56-53 in the Area Round of the UIL 5A playoffs. However, it was an electric atmosphere as four of the top 15 teams in Class 5A descended on Wagstaff Gymnasium at Tyler Junior College, with 13 Red Oak defeating 12 Lufkin in the opening game. The Tigers hoped to face Red Oak for the second straight postseason, but fate was not in Mount Pleasant’s favor as they took their first loss of the season.
The Tigers opened up the game in resounding fashion with a dunk by Kai Price in what looked to be an omen of things to come. However, Forney would respond with a three on the other end to take one of six lead changes in the game. Both teams would turn the ball over a couple of times before Mount Pleasant would find the bottom of the net again on a Kelcey Morris three-pointer to take back the lead at 5-3. The Jackrabbits would get fouled on a shot and convert one of two at the line to cut the gap to 5-4 before both teams entered a drought from the field. Reggie Webster would finally connect on a transition runner to extend the Tigers’ lead to 7-4, but Forney would have an answer resetting the score again at 11-11. Mount Pleasant would get a little momentum to close the quarter up 15-11 after one.
The second quarter saw both teams trade blows as the Tigers gained their largest lead at 21-13. Forney, however, would match the Tigers point for point as both teams scored 11 points in the quarter to set the score at 26-22 Tigers at the break. Forney would finally gain some traction in the third quarter as the Tiger shooting went cold, using a 7-0 burst late to take a 36-34 heading into the final frame. Forney would continue that push to extend their lead to the largest of the game at 45-36, putting the Tigers in their bottomless hole of the season.
A timeout by Mount Pleasant with 3:30 left in the game would allow the Tigers to regroup as they made their final surge to keep their season alive. A quick 6-0 wave would bring the Tigers within 45-42 before the Jackrabbits would counter again and go back up 51-42. Mount Pleasant would cut the lead back to four at 54-50, time was beginning to run out, and desperation was setting in. After a couple of Forney free throws, Payton Chism would knock down a running three-pointer, and Kelcey Morris stole the inbound pass throwing it off a Forney defender with four seconds remaining and the score at 56-53. With the Tigers out of timeouts, the ensuing inbounds’ play quickly formed, and Carter Chism found an open Kelcey Morris in the corner. However, the shot would be off the mark, and the Tigers would fall for the first and last time of the season.
Kelcey Morris would lead the Tigers with 16 points (6-18 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT) and a team-high five steals. Reggie Webster would add 11 points (5-12 FG, 1-5 3PT) with five rebounds. Kai Price notched his first double-double of the season with 10 points and ten rebounds, adding two blocks. The Chism brothers each added 7 points, with Payton chipping in 4 rebounds and five assists and Carter 4 rebounds and a steal. Kyler Smith put up 2 points to round out the scoring.
The Tigers’ monumental season broke several school records. A win streak of 34 games set a new single-season record, total wins, and the highest regular season state ranking at four. The senior class of 2023 had an impressive high school run setting an overall record of 118-16, including three district championships, a 13-4 playoff record, and three appearances in the regional tournament. Senior Payton Chism surpassed the 1,500 career point mark, and senior Kelcey Morris went over 1,000 career points. Head coach Joey Chism also notched his 200th career win during the season.