BOYS BASKETBALL: Titans or Texans: Who’s No. 1?

Published 6:19 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

SAN ANTONIO — By the end of Saturday afternoon, one team will live out its biggest dreams and truly be the titans of high school basketball in Texas Class 5A.

The Port Arthur Memorial Titans have the name. They just hope to fit the bill, like nine other teams from their city did, most recently in 1995.

“These kids weren’t even born the last time we won state in Port Arthur,” coach Kenneth Coleman said. “I know they didn’t understand how much the community gets behind them. So, I’m excited.”

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Otherwise, it’s only fitting a team of Texans will do the job.

Saturday’s UIL 5A championship will feature two of the top four teams ranked in the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll. No. 2 Justin Northwest (34-5), named after its school district in the Fort Worth area, has won 18 in a row, having won a couple of four-point decisions in the playoffs. The Texans are in their second state appearance, losing to Fort Bend Marshall 82-59 in last year’s semifinals.

Fourth-ranked Memorial (33-5) has won 25 straight and beaten teams by seven or more points each time. The Titans are trying to return the championship glory to their city in their first appearance, one that was 16 years of their existence in the making.

While coach Kenneth Coleman often reminds his team of enjoying the moment and not taking anything for granted during the playoff journey, he knows the Titans have just completed one part of the state tournament process.

“It’s very difficult to celebrate in this tournament of a big magnitude when there’s one game left to play,” Coleman said. “Fortunately, if we win, we can celebrate.”

Memorial worked out at Converse Judson High School on Friday morning but did not work on plays as the team was just coming off a 61-49 win over Midlothian the night before. Coleman wanted the Titans to just get their legs back under them.

“We just shot around,” he said. “We shot early in the morning. We just loosened up, did some stretches and yoga.”

The Titans then went to the Alamodome to see Silsbee beat Somerset 80-61 in a 4A semifinal. Silsbee will take on Dallas Carter at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Memorial won its playoff game without sixth man Jyson Butler. Coleman said an MRI revealed Butler tore his ACL and meniscus during last Saturday’s 5A Region III win over Fort Bend Elkins, and the senior guard will be unavailable against Northwest.



Northwest knocked out the hometown favorite, San Antonio Alamo Heights, 65-54 in the late game Thursday behind 13 points and 17 rebounds from 6-foot-10 junior Sammie Freeman. He’s likely to be the most significant opponent for a Titans team that has had plenty of success against rangier teams in the postseason.

Texans forward and UT Arlington signee Mason Hix had 14 points, shooting 6 of 10 from the floor. Junior Avery Anderson, the team’s floor general, made eight steals and dished out eight assists to go with 16 points, and sophomore guard Julien Smith had 13.

Coleman and his team happened to be eating at the same restaurant as the Texans for dinner, so he couldn’t give out a detailed plan for countering their attack Saturday.

“We already knew every team in the tournament was going to be tough,” Coleman said. “Each team possesses different challenges. You just have to game plan them find out what they do well and take that away from them.”



Midlothian’s Kaden Archie spent part of Thursday’s postgame interview consoling fellow senior guard Caleb Jordan, putting his right arm around Jordan as coach Steven Middleton addressed the media.

Before the Panthers’ media session wrapped up, Archie wanted to say one last thing about Middleton, a former Oklahoma State and Massachusetts assistant coach.

“You guys see us, and you think we just come out here to play basketball,” Archie said. “But this man right here, he did a lot for me personally, not just as a basketball player but as a man. There was one point in my career, I remember we were playing a game, and a college coach gave me a lot of D-I looks and came out to watch me play. I had 23 points, and I had already seen on Twitter he offered a kid on another team we played against. It broke my heart.”

Archie then had to stop and compose himself for a few seconds.

“I wanted to quit,” he continued, fighting through tears, “but [Middleton] wouldn’t let me. A lot of coaches wouldn’t care about that, but he doesn’t care about me just as a player but a man. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. I love the man to death like he is a part of my family because he is. His wife and daughters brought me in.”



Defending state champion Silsbee got 20 points from Jordyn Adams, 14 from Braelon Bush, 13 from Kalon Barnes and eight points and 10 rebounds from Devon McCain. Barnes blocked three shots as well.

The Tigers raced to a 30-9 first-quarter lead and led by 33 points late in the first half during a wire-to-wire win. They converted 27 points off turnovers and 18 on the fast break.

This is the third straight state appearance for Silsbee.

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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