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Third time’s as charming: Indians 3-0 vs. Pirates on season

PORT NECHES — Of the three times Port Neches-Groves and Vidor have faced off this season, this one carried the most importance.

So far, it’s PNG 3, Vidor 0.

Drake Rojas and Tracy Smith combined for more than 80 percent of the Indians’ scoring Friday in a 42-38 victory, their second in District 21-5A this season.

“I set it in my mind to go at them early,” said Smith, who had 16 points. “I really wanted it to be not a close game, but I’ll take the dub [W for win].”

Rojas scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half and made 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute. The Indians (14-10, 2-3 in 21-5A) rebounded two of their free-throw misses to help run out the clock on the Pirates (12-8, 1-4).

“It doesn’t matter what kind of team Vidor has, you are going to get their best effort every time, and they play so hard,” PNG coach Pat Abel said. “Coach [Nate] Smith does a great job with them. You almost hate playing them as much as the tougher teams out there, the state champions and all that. In this league, it seems like everybody’s a state champion. It’s pretty intense.”

Memorial is the defending 5A champion and competes in 21-5A.

All three games between PNG and Vidor have gone down to the wire, with one left to play Feb. 5 in Vidor. Rojas banked in a 35-foot three-point basket at the buzzer in a 49-48 victory at the Nederland/YMBL Classic on Dec. 1, and PNG won the Bridge City Cardinal Classic with a 58-51 victory on Dec. 29.

With Friday’s win, PNG ended a two-game skid and won in district play for the first time since beating Dayton on Dec. 18. The Indians did it after trailing 22-15, pulling within 22-21 at halftime on a (10) spin to the basket to beat the buzzer, and trailing 31-30 through three periods.

Quite the relief to win, right?

“I think relief comes right around spring break,” Abel said. “My mentality is, ‘Congratulations, you won. Who’s next?” Abel said.

The answer: a bye date. “We think we got those guys,” Abel joked. “I think we’ll win that one.”

Gavin Jarrell led Vidor with 16 points, and Gage Galloway added eight.

PNG next Friday will host Cleveland in a battle of Indians. PNG won 63-57 in the Hardin-Jefferson Basketball Marathon on Dec. 6.

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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