Little things matter: Lineup changes, defense lead to Titans’ resurgence

Published 5:27 pm Monday, January 25, 2016

Jan. 5 is probably a night Port Arthur Memorial coach Kenneth Coleman would probably rather forget.

That’s when the Titans, resuming their District 21-6A schedule, struggled at home and lost to Deer Park 55-43. It marked the second of three straight losses.

But Coleman said that game in particular started a turnaround that has the Titans competing for a district championship.

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“We sort of went outside some things [we talked about] from the very beginning,” the first-year Titans coach said. “Just like we were going to begin with the end in mind. I really got away from it. The Deer Park game made me go back to the basics.”

Coleman did more than go back to the basics.

He’s also changed up his starting lineup in an effort to have certain players bring much-needed energy off the bench, even if they’re key cogs.

“If we’re going to win, we’re going to win defensively, and we started trying to do some things and putting people in spots that were better on the offensive side but not as committed on the defensive side,” he said. “Now, they’re coming off the bench committed to defense. We made a commitment to defense, and the kids are buying in.”

After a 93-87 overtime loss at Baytown Sterling, Memorial (10-11, 4-2) has won three straight and earned a share of first place in the 21-6A race with Tuesday’s  opponent, Channelview, and perennial power North Shore, which Memorial just beat 62-57 on Friday at home. The Titans have not given up more than 60 points during the win streak.

“You’re going to win state championships because you can make stops, not because you’re going to outscore people,” said Coleman, who won a title two seasons ago as a North Shore assistant.

And key cogs are still being cogs, whether they’re starting or coming off the bench.

“He [Coleman] just told us some of us play our roles and just play basketball, just go what you’ve got to do to play and get buckets,” sophomore forward Darion Chatman, the Titans’ leading scorer (no statistics available), said.

Tyryn Hinton, a standout senior center being recruited by San Jose State, scored 12 points against North Shore in his third straight game as a reserve.

“I don’t worry about coming off the bench, really,” Hinton said. “Really, you’re just playing basketball. Once you’re on the court, you’re just on the court.”

Coleman said he’s gotten senior leadership from Nelson Mitchell and Hinton in the turnaround. Sophomore swingman Thailan Wesley, who was a leading scorer earlier in the season, also has responded in a reserve role.

Coleman has used a similar tactic to Lamar coach Tic Price’s in that he alters his lineup almost each game. Price’s leading scorer, freshman Nick Garth, regularly gives Lamar much-needed offense as a reserve guard.

Coleman wasn’t sure how many different lineups he’s used so far.

“When I substitute, there’s really no drop-off,” he said. “They’re bringing the same type of energy.”

The Titans can even their overall record Tuesday with a season-best fourth straight win when they host Channelview, which they beat 57-52 to begin district on Dec. 18.

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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