AUSTIN -- On the road to the Class A Division I state basketball championship, Triple A needed some roadside assistance.
Guard Tyler Singleton returned from early foul trouble to spark a second-quarter rally, and the Dallas Triple A Academy Stallions defeated the Mumford Mustangs 80-54 on Saturday in the title game.
"They are very good," said Mumford coach Chris Sodek, whose team suffered its only loss of the season in the state title game for the second straight year. "Like [2012 champion] Clarksville last year, they are one of the best 1A teams I have seen. I don't think these guys were as physically mature as Clarksville, but skilled ... they are very skilled."
Dallas Triple A, which has no seniors on its team, was shrouded in controversy throughout the season with accusations that the charter school was built mainly for basketball success. Before 9,722 fans at the Erwin Center who demonstrably favored Mumford, the Mustangs gave the crowd early reason to cheer, claiming an 18-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Mumford (39-1) made crowd-pleasing plays to move in front early, with Dion Mack powering inside and drawing a foul for a three-point play. Aubrie King stopped and popped a 3-pointer. Sophomore LaKendric Hyson capped the run with a spectacular play, blocking a shot, catching the ball in midair and racing down the court for a dunk.
Hyson had his best scoring game in four contests at the state tournament with 22 points. He also had 10 rebounds, two blocks and two assists.
But Singleton, who left the game with his second foul at 4:44 of the first quarter, helped fuel Triple A's 16-4 run that provided the turnaround in the second quarter. Triple A used it for a 38-29 halftime lead and fended off all attempts at a Mustangs' rally in the second half.
During that second-quarter run, Triple A's Frank Hollis, who just entered the game, hit a 3-pointer, and Jamar Sandifer followed with a bucket on an assist by Gary Breaux for a 21-20 lead with 4:45 left in the half. The Stallions never lost the lead.
"[Mumford] played tough and kept us off the boards, so we had to go to a smaller lineup," said Triple A coach Timothy Singleton, who is Tyler's father. "They were kind of quick. We didn't expect them to be that fast."
Mumford scored on fast breaks after Triple A baskets to keep the game within reach, closing to within 33-28 when Josh Sustaita scored on a tough reverse layup to finish one of the breaks. But Singleton, who had 18 points, buried a 3-pointer and drew a foul on a trey attempt as the second-quarter buzzer sounded. He hit two of three free throws to give the Stallions the 38-29 halftime margin.
The play hurt Mumford in two ways, because junior point guard Dion Mack picked up his third personal foul.
Jeremiah Jefferson, coming off 37 points in the state semifinals against El Paso Harmony Science, scored 17 in the opening half on his way to 29 in the championship to earn the game's MVP award. His quick jumpers made his fast step to the basket an even greater challenge for Mumford to defense.
"With [injured] King McClure being out, I was stepping up, being aggressive and the shots were falling," Jefferson said.
Seth Smitherman's driving shot cut Triple A's lead to 47-38 in the third quarter, but the Stallions answered when Hollis drained a 3-pointer.
"In the third quarter, we were down nine," Sodek said. "I thought if we got down to six, we'd be okay. But they beat us that quarter by seven, and that was pretty much the ball game. We started having to rush and do things uncharacteristic for us, and they beat us."
If a champion had been voted in, Mumford would have won overwhelmingly. In an extraordinary rarity at the UIL state tournament, the Stallions were booed lustily at times, including when they received their championship medals at halftime of the 3A title game. Mumford left the court as the people's champions, receiving a standing ovation when the Mustangs received their silver medals for the second straight year.
"We're still public school champions in my opinion," said Sodek, whose Mustangs are 76-2 over the last two seasons.
Triple A finished with a 28-5 record. None of those losses came to a Class A school. The 26-point win matched Triple A's closest game against a team in its own classification.
"Probably on the defensive end was the biggest struggle," said King, who scored 13 points. "Their offensive rebounding was the biggest struggle we had with them. They are really big and pretty strong. I didn't think their press hurt us a whole lot. We had a few turnovers, but rebounding was the biggest thing."
An inability to keep the Stallions off the offensive boards kept Mumford from any chance of mounting an upset over the team pinpointed to win state since the preseason. Triple A had 14 steals and forced 20 Mumford turnovers. The Stallions outrebounded the Mustangs 40-26, and 23 of those came on the offensive boards leading to 23 second-chance points.
"Even in the first quarter, when we were up 18-11, they outrebounded us on the offensive end and then we started turning the ball over," Sodek said. "When you put those things together, you're going to be in for a long day. It's one thing to say we are going to rebound, but physically, we couldn't do that and that's because they are good."