One thing is for certain — Nederland’s Bulldogs have had to come down off Cloud 9 in a hurry the past two days.
On a buzzer-beating overtime layup against Beaumont Ozen earlier this week, Brian English’s club punched a ticket to the Class 4A regional tournament for the second time in four years. Three seasons ago in 2011, the ‘Dogs lost to Galveston Ball in the region semis.
One has to go all the way back to four months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — to March of 1942 — since a Nederland team has advanced deeper into the state playoffs.
In 1942, then a Class A school, Nederland lost in the state finals to Van, 35-27.
But as quickly as Colton Weisbrod’s game-winner sent the Nederland faithful into a frenzy on Tuesday, the Bulldogs have to jump right out of the frying pan and back into the fire here tonight. And it looks to be a fire with an even hotter flame.
In a 7:30 p.m. Class 4A regional semifinal tipoff tonight in the 7,200-seat Katy Merrell Center, the Bulldogs find themselves up against high-scoring 27-7 Fort Bend Marshall. The 6 p.m. opener of this 4A regional tournament doubleheader has 20-4A co-champion Central opposing Friendswood (27-7).
Ft. Bend, the champions of District 22-4A, should provide Nederland its toughest test thus far season in the nightcap. Marshall’s lightning-quick guards love to press, force a lot of turnovers and do a great job turning them into points.
Although owning an impressive-looking front line that goes 6-9, 6-7 and 6-5, Marshall is also extremely athletic on the perimeter. It’s a team that loves to put up big numbers on the scoreboard.
Averaging 72.8 points a game while allowing 57.1, the Buffs have scored over 80 points nine times and have surpassed the century mark on three occasions. After beginning the season 1-4, the Buffaloes have gone 26-3 since, and are presently rolling along with an 18-game winning streak.
Marshall’s biggest scoring night of the year came against Houston Stratford when it exploded for 102 points in a 43-point victory.
An aggressive Nederland defense that allows only 50.9 points a game (led by Weisbrod, and 6-2, 210-pound Colton Kimler) will have its hands full against the talented Buffaloes.
Averaging just over 40 rebounds and 7.5 blocks a night, Marshall’s big men — seniors Keondre Gibson (6-9, 190) and Elliot Taylor (6-7, 230), and sophomore Christian Barrett (6-5, 195) — will be a force to be reckoned with. Taylor led the way on the boards averaging 8.5 rebounds a game, followed by Barrett with 7.7 caroms a night, while Gibson add 5.1.
Sophomore Barrett led Ft. Bend in its 81-78 upset of Wheatley Tuesday with 25 points, while Taylor added 12 tallies.
Marshall’s best player is 6-2, 170-pound senior guard Damien Day. Day averages 17.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game. He’s joined in the backcourt by senior Jadier Richardson (5-8, 160), the No. 4 assist man in the Greater Houston area with 4.9 a game. Richardson also scores 10.7 points a game.
While recognized along with Nederland’s Weisbrod as two of the top seniors in the the Greater Houston area, Day had an off-night against Wheatley with just six points (3-of-10 FGs, no free throws, and 0-of-2 from behind the arc).
Nederland fans shouldn't expect another subpar night from Marshall’s main offensive threat His top scoring night of the year was 43 points.
With Day and Richardson looming large in Marshall’s press, the Buffaloes average an amazing 16.5 steals a game.
“They’re long, athletic and have beaten some very good teams this year,” said Nederland coach Brian English. “They will press a little, and one of our keys to the game is how we handle it. Over the last month, our guards (sophomore Jaylan Ballou and senior Diondre Frank) have done a good job handling the basketball.”
Although the Buffaloes are much bigger inside than Nederland’s Weisbrod, it’s hard to imagine anybody holding down the New Orleans-bound redhead. Weisbrod is now the No. 5 leading scorer in the Greater Houston area.
Following his monster 41-point night against Ozen Tuesday (preceded by a 39-point effort against Montgomery in the area round), Weisbrod is now averaging 27.0 points a game. He also averages 13.5 rebounds. Kimler, who has become Nederland’s “enforcer” on the inside, is a kid who leaves it all out on the court every night out. Ft. Bend big men beware!
If Marshall decides to play a sagging zone defense on Weisbrod. 6-2 senior Tyler Toon (11.2 points, 2.5 treys a night) will have the green light to fire away from long range. ‘The son of Aldrine Nimitz head coach Nathan Toon, the younger Toon, has one of the sweeter shooting strokes around and is deadly from 20-feet on out.
“I believe our kids have improved as much over the course of the season as any group I’ve had in my coaching career,” said English, who will reach win No. 300 if the Bulldogs advance to Saturday’s 5 p.m. regional final.
Nederland fans, meanwhile, are hereby forewarned that Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on the Katy Freeway outbound (I-10 West) is brutal. Get caught coming out of Houston anytime after 4 p.m. and it’s likely to be bumper-to-bumper for miles.
Directions to Merrell Center in Katy
Get on I-10 W in Winnie and stay on it for 86.4 miles.
Take exit 740 toward Farm to Mkt 1463/Pin Oak Rd 0.3 mi
Merge onto Interstate 10 Frontage Rd W 0.2 mi
Slight right to stay on Interstate 10 Frontage Rd W 1.1 mi
Turn right toward Farm to Market 1463 89 ft
Turn right onto Farm to Market 1463
Merrell Center is on left