Ozen’s turn: Panthers stop Titans’ Gamble reign, but not Wesley’s 35

Published 9:50 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The O-Train. The Big O. Big Blue. State contenders.

Whatever Beaumont Ozen might be called, James Gamble Classic champions can be added to the list. As Gamble himself told the crowd after the game: “Ozen is the real deal.”

Yeah, that, too.

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John Comeaux capped a tournament MVP performance with three dunks, Josh Boyd scored 26 points, and the Panthers stopped host Port Arthur Memorial’s bid for a third straight Gamble Classic title with an 88-71 victory Wednesday night.

Ozen has won all three meetings with Memorial this season, two of which were played inside the Titans’ gym.

“It’s Ozen’s gym, now,” Comeaux said.

Boyd didn’t even have the game high. Sophomore Thailan Wesley led Memorial (7-11) with 35 points, including six three-point baskets.

But that wasn’t enough to protect a three-game winning streak. Still, first-year coach Kenneth Coleman thinks the Titans are going in the right direction.

“We definitely are,” he said. “I knew Ozen was on a roll, and I knew they were going to be a good test, and I knew we were going to have to do everything correctly to have a chance.”

Ozen won its first Gamble Classic championship since 2005, when current Port Arthur ISD athletic director Andre Boutte was coaching the Panthers. Boutte led Port Arthur Lincoln to the first three Gamble Classic titles in 1993-95. The tournament is named after the man who led Lincoln to four state championships in the 1980s.

This year, the Gamble Classic belongs to Marquis Saveat’s Panthers.

“Whenever you come in here and play in the finals of this tournament,” said Saveat, who succeeded Boutte at Ozen in the middle of the 2008-09 season. “Against Memorial, you better be prepared for a fight. We knew that, so we were ready for adverse combat and we cane out and did what we had to do.”

Ozen (13-2) took a 9-0 lead, but the Panthers hardly put the game out of reach until the bitter end. Wesley knocked down three treys and scored 11 points to will the Titans to within 24-22 through one quarter.

The Panthers then went to work on defense, forcing numerous turnovers in Memorial’s guard play. Boyd aided a 12-2 run with back-to-back baskets, as did Comeaux with a layup and his first of three jams.

Comeaux showed no effects from a shoulder injury he sustained earlier in the day in a semifinal win over Beaumont West Brook. He finished the championship with 16 points, a day after scoring 32 in a first-round win over Hardin-Jefferson.

“When the adrenaline gets going, I love this game too much,” Comeaux said. “I’m not going to let [the injury] stop me.”

Ahead 45-36, the Panthers finally blew the lid off with a balanced attack in the third quarter and was ahead 67-44 before Reao Keller scored six unanswered points off Ozen’s turnovers forced by Memorial’s press. The closest the Titans would come was within 84-70.

Deon Williams added 12 points for Memorial, and Travon Gipson knocked down 18 for Ozen.

Other scores from Wednesday’s p.m. action in the Classic: Ozen 69, West Brook 41 in a semifinal; Houston Kashmere 67, Houston Fallbrook Christian 48 for seventh place; Lake Charles Washington-Marion 64, Hardin-Jefferson 61 in the consolation final; and West Brook 70, Beaumont Kelly 60 for third place.

The all-tournament team is: Deyleon Grifin of Kashmere, Ashton Charles of Fallbrook Christian, Christian Edwards of Washington-Marion, Michael Saladin of Hardin-Jefferson, Tevin Baker and Dareiyus Richard of Kelly, Robert Lester and Innis Gaines of West Brook, Boyd and Sneed of Ozen, Tyryn Hinton and Wesley of Memorial. Edwards was named Mr. Inside, and Comeaux was named Mr. Outside.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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