BOYS BASKETBALL: Wesley’s career high moves Titans to area round

Published 9:03 pm Monday, February 19, 2018

CHANNELVIEW — Bill Neal Center has been good to Port Arthur Memorial.

A year after defeating Texas City in a double-overtime area round game at the Channelview High School gym, senior forward Thailan Wesley scored a career-high 40 points here to push the fourth-ranked Titans back into Class 5A’s second round with a 73-54 win over Barbers Hill on Monday night.

While tipoff came more than 20 minutes later because an official arrived late to the gymnasium, the game was not devoid of a fast-pace both teams established from the outset.

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“The truth of the matter is, it’s the playoffs,” said Kenneth Coleman, who earned his third playoff victory at Memorial. “I shared that with somebody else. Everybody in the playoffs feels like they can win a state championship. If you don’t feel that way, you shouldn’t be playing.”

Memorial (28-5) exceeded its win total from last season and earned its 20th straight victory Monday in a game that carried as much intensity as last year’s 68-64 win over Texas City. The Titans will face No. 15 Alvin Shadow Creek, who defeated Houston Sterling 92-67, at 7 p.m. Friday (unless it’s part of a doubleheader) at La Porte High School.

But Memorial will enjoy this one for the short time it has to get ready for the 23-6 Sharks, whose school is in only its second year of operation.

“[We’re] just playing hard,” Wesley said. “It’s the same thing we do every time we come on the basketball court. Every time we get between those lines, we play hard.”

The Titans, who have rarely trailed during their winning streak, were down as much as 15-10 in the early going but led 31-29 at halftime, when Wesley had 19 points.

“I felt our kids dug down,” Coleman said. “For some reason, we were fundamentally weak. We got to reaching, and we were doing some things maybe because we felt like they were slower than us or something like that, but they dug down and did what they had to do to win.”

Kyler Duhon made a pair of three-point baskets to help the Eagles (23-15) tie the game at 37, but Memorial’s half-court defense started to force turnovers, and Darion Chatman (three-point basket) and Jamyus Jones (off fast break) capitalized off back-to-back steals to gain separation on District 21-5A’s fourth-place team.

“We play better in the half-court,” Wesley said, although the Titans are known to capitalize more off the full-court defense. “That’s what we work on in practice. That’s what made us come out there in the second half and get the lead.”

Emotions ran high and a minor scuffle occurred with 56 seconds left in the third quarter on an apparent tie-up, resulting in technical fouls against Barbers Hill’s Isiah Lawson and Chatman. Wesley then started a string of scoring 15 straight Memorial points going into the 5-minute mark of the final period, and the Eagles were held to one field goal during his surge.

“They hurt us inside, and they really attacked us,” BH coach Chris Pennington said. “They didn’t shoot the three as much. Transition points killed us second half. That was the difference in the game.”

Memorial took its first double-digit lead at 55-45 with 5:58 remaining, and Wesley hit a tough leaner 58 seconds later to cap his personal 15-6 run against Barbers Hill.

Sophomore Nate Clover had 14 points, including a two-hand jam late in the fourth quarter, and Chatman sank 11 points for the Titans.

Junior point guard Max Armer helped the Eagles answer the bell early with 15 of his team-high 21 points, but he had to play the role of distributor as well as the Titans keyed in on him. Classmate Duhon knocked down three of the Eagles’ six treys and finished with 11, while senior John Cerbara ended up with nine points.

“Everybody we play, they know Max is our guy,” Pennington said. “They deny him. He’s had to work his butt off for 37 games to get open, and he’s a gamer. He’s a heck of a player.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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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