Titans seeking momentum; Indians hope to contain “monsters” in middle

Published 12:13 am Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Memorial Titans and Port Neches Groves-Indians each played great games on Tuesday, coaches said. Even though PNG fell to archrival Nederland, Indians head coach Chris Smith can’t fault his team for playing their hearts out.

“We played an excellent game,” he said. “We executed well, we fought. They made some big shots at some costly moments. I’m proud of the way our guys played.”

The Indians (8-11, 1-1) will arrive in Port Arthur at 7 p.m. Friday as underdogs, Smith said. Memorial head coach Alden Lewis thinks this is going to make the Indians a challenging team.

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“They’re going to play hard and be scrappy, and they’re for sure going to come here looking to get a victory,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to be prepare and up for the challenge.”

Lewis will want to keep the Titans’ (19-5, 2-0) winning momentum going throughout the rest of district.

“That’s the bottom line; we had a pretty good non-district schedule, we had some challenges and we just want to make sure we carry over that momentum through district,” he said.

That momentum picked up speed Tuesday with the Titans’ seventh win in a row.

“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but we were able to go in there and get a victory on the road, and anytime time you go on the road and get a victory, that’s good,” he said.

Amaree Abram and Kenneth Lofton Jr. both led in scoring with 18 points, while Nate Clover added eight, but Lewis said the win was brought together through a whole team effort.

Smith is working on a strategy to overcome the size Clover and Lofton bring — both committed to Division I colleges — for Class 5A’s No. 5 ranked team by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches as of Monday.

“I wish there was a magic word I can say, but all we’re going to do is we’re going to put our hard hats on, go to work and try to battle those two monsters,” Smith said. “We’re going to try to slow them down, there’s no stopping them, they’re too big. We just hope to slow them down and give us a chance in the fourth quarter. That’s what we want. We want to keep the game close to give us a chance in the fourth quarter to see if we can steal one over there in Port Arthur.”

One bright spot for the Indians may be their defense. The Indians managed to hold Nederland’s high scoring players back some, limiting Hayden Hefner to 15 points and Tyler Jackson to just nine, while PNG’s Khristian Curtis scored 20 points with eight rebounds and two blocks. Smith said Tuesday’s game was perhaps Curtis’ best of the season.

“He played a monster game,” Smith said. “He was the leading scorer for the game. It was awesome for him.”

Memorial hopes to bring its own robust defense Friday.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to play some hardcore defense and limit their shots and come out of there with a victory,” Lewis said. “But it all starts and ends with defense.”

Great defense helps when it’s brought consistently as well.

“We need to be making sure we’re staying on task, executing and knowing our assignments,” Lewis said. We also need to make sure we’re playing consistent basketball throughout the whole district.”