BOYS BASKETBALL: Greater than No. 8: Ninth-ranked Titans exact revenge over Eagles

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The District 21-5A race is all even now. And Memorial has been waiting more than a month for the opportunity.

The 5A ninth-ranked Titans denied eighth-ranked Barbers Hill a repeat of their Dec. 18 meeting in Mont Belvieu and made two stops in the final 17 seconds to protect their home court for the 27th time in a row with a 49-47 win Tuesday night. The win moved the Titans (19-6, 6-1 in 21-5A), who lost 56-54 in the last meeting on a Mason Daniels three-point shot, into a tie for first place with the Eagles (23-6, 6-1), who had won five straight.

Tuesday’s clash came on a night when the Memorial girls (13-10, 7-1) stunned first-place Barbers Hill 41-34 in Mont Belvieu. Barbers Hill fell to 8-1 in 21-5A.

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Memorial’s boys are 8-0 at home this season and have won 27 straight on their home floor since a Jan. 4, 2017, loss to Beaumont Central. The Titans have won nine in a row since the Dec. 18 defeat.

But it was close.

“We’ve got to finish strong,” first-year Titans coach Alden Lewis said. “Keep doing what we’ve been doing and finish strong.”

The Eagles got the ball from a side-out play to 1,000-plus career scorer Max Armer, who dumped it off to Josh Guidry at the top of the key. Nate Clover deflected the shot out of bounds, and on the following inbound play, Armer found Kyler Duhon at the left-hand corner, but Duhon’s shot was well short as time expired.

Freshman Amaree Abram (15 points) and junior Kenneth Lofton Jr. (14) combined for 12 of the Titans’ 16 points in the first quarter.

“He’s a pretty good player … only as a freshman,” Lofton said of Abram. “He’s our point guard, and he plays hard, every play.”

The Titans held a 33-32 lead, but were ahead by as much as 29-17 with 5:05 left in the third frame. That’s when Barbers Hill woke out of a 5-minute, 13-second drought thanks to the play of Duhon (18 points) and Armer (15).

Guidry scored eight of his 12 points in the final period, and Barbers Hill was ahead 40-37 with 5:06 remaining.

“Our coach told us playing defense wins championships and wins games,” Lofton said. “We came out in the second half playing defense, we stopped players, and we executed and won.”

Memorial went back to Lofton, who was in foul trouble down the stretch, and Lofton scored six points the rest of the way, his backdoor layup with 1:10 remaining proving to be the necessary insurance.

“My coaches told me to keep my hands up on defense and on offense, play hard,” Lofton said.

Guidry cut it to 49-47 off an inbound pass with 52 seconds left. Jaden Conner was fouled with 30.4 seconds left, but missed the single-bonus shot, and Barbers Hill called timeout with 17 seconds remaining to set up what would be the next-to-last play.

The Titans survived a defensive first half and led 20-17, holding the Eagles scoreless for nearly 7 minutes in the process. Barbers Hill had jumped to an 8-1 lead in the first 3 minutes.

“The game is about runs,” Lewis said. “That’s what it comes down to, who can get the most stops in crucial times, and we got a couple of stops and did what we were supposed to do, and the game was in our favor.”

Memorial will visit Vidor on Friday.

**CORRECTS Memorial girls record**

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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