Bulldogs to take best shots at Beaumont boys

Published 2:03 pm Monday, January 4, 2016

After 16 games for Beaumont Ozen and 22 games for Nederland, not much is left to find out about the two District 22-5A programs … except who will beat who on Tuesday.

Tonight, a winning streak will go down in Ozen’s gymnasium. Nederland has won only two straight, but has lost just two of its past 11 by a total of four points, both defeats going to 2A top-ranked Big Sandy in the Hardin-Jefferson Marathon.

Class 5A’s No. 8 Ozen (14-2, 1-0) has won nine straight since a South Texas Shootout championship loss to inner-district rival and current No. 7 Central. The Panthers have won each of their last four games by 17 or more points, with host Port Arthur Memorial being the closest competition in an 88-71 decision Wednesday in the James Gamble Classic final. That gave Ozen a three-game season sweep of the Titans.

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Nederland (16-6, 1-0), which beat Memorial 75-66 at home on Dec. 15, isn’t expecting to just stop the O-Train’s offensive exploits.

“I don’t know if you stop them,” 10th-year Bulldogs coach Brian English said. “You just have to contain them the best you can and, you know, hope you get some critical stops. To do the best you can, you’ve got to have a good offensive output.”

For Nederland, tonight is also a warm-up for another big tussle on Friday with Central and the continuation of a big stretch of 22-5A games, culminating in a Dec. 12 showdown at next-door rival Port Neches-Groves.

This is how explosive the Panthers are: Aside from the recent victory margins, they have scored fewer than 70 points just twice in the past six games. Against Memorial, Northwestern State signee Josh Boyd scored 26 points, a day after Gamble Classic MVP John Comeaux went for 32 points against Hardin-Jefferson.

It all comes with the territory of the Panthers’ fast-paced brand of basketball.

“It’s practice, too,” Comeaux said. “We never let up. Every team we go against, we go our hardest.”

Defensively, Ozen is just as gritty, frustrating opponents with half-court traps.

“Our guys, when we’re locked in, we’re able to defend well, and we hang our hat on that,” eighth-year Panthers coach Marquis Saveat said.

But Nederland didn’t start the season 16-6 without its share of offensive weapons.

Senior swingman Jase Miguez has averaged 33 points in his past three games, having set career highs of 37 and 38 against West Orange-Stark and Memorial, respectively, and scored 24 in Saturday’s home win over Vidor. Senior point man Darrell Jones often led the Bulldogs in scoring along with Miguez earlier in the season, and he finds ways to create plays for surging junior center Kevin Howard, who has registered 18 points each in the past two games.

“He came to us in middle school and wasn’t very good,” English said. “He didn’t get to play much. He stayed in the gym, and he’s really developed for us, and we’re going to need him these next 13 games.”

Ozen won both games with Nederland last season, but after losing at home 72-41 the Bulldogs made it a tougher game in Beaumont, falling to the eventual 5A runners-up only 47-40.

If the Bulldogs are to pull off the win over a top-10 team in Beaumont, it’ll take more than offensive excellence.

“Play better defense,” Howard said. “We have to not be scared. We have to come out tough and not let them get going.”

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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