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BOYS BASKETBALL: Young PNG ready to “play every game like it is our last”

PORT NECHES — Port Neches-Groves basketball coach Chris Smith is aware the season is fragile. In fact, he is telling his young team to enjoy every single game.

“I remember when we had our first scrimmage against Vidor,” he said. “I looked at the kids and told them we are here. We were finally getting to play a game. I told them to go out there and enjoy it, because you never know when it can be taken away. We are not guaranteed this season, so we have to go and play every game like it is our last one. I feel for the kids who played baseball last year and didn’t get to finish their season, but that could be us this year.”

After graduating two All-District 21-5A players last season, the Indians are looking for players to step up to fill the void.

“We have a lot of new guys stepping into their rolls and learning their spot on the team,” Smith said. “We have some sophomores that are having to step up. I like where we are going. It is going to take a little adjusting for our guys to get better.”

After two single-digit losses to Goose Creek Memorial and Little Cypress-Mauriceville to open this season, Smith said he likes what he has seen as his team shakes off the rust.

The team will eventually return two standout receivers from the football team in Brady Nail and Grant Pearson, along with tight end Brooks Barnwell.

“(Nail) is going to be really good for us,” Smith said. “He is our anchor. He is like the glue. Anytime a play breaks down, you can give him the ball and he finds the right person. He is consistent, strong and just a great kid to coach.”

Smith said Grant Pearson will be replacing Christian Curtis down low.

The Indians also return senior Kenneth Muller.

“Those four are all of my returners, which means we have 10 new guys,” he said. “That is why I say we are young. It is like having a brand new team.”

Smith is anxious to see how sophomore Ian Eberhardt develops over the course of the season.

“He was on our freshman team last year and had a really good year,” Smith said. “He just had a really great summer. He is going to be one of our main shooters. The speed of the game is getting to him right now as he is finding out varsity basketball is a little different. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for that young man. He is going to be really good.”

Smith is anxious to see how a tough district schedule hardens his young group.

“Six out of the seven teams were in the playoffs last year,” he said laughing. “Galena Park was one game out of the playoffs in their district. UIL didn’t do us any favors putting those guys in our district. It’s going to be fun to play that level of competition. You find out what you are made of. I tell our kids that we are just going to compete and see what happens.”

PNG BOYS BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Home games in BOLD; All games are scheduled for 7 p.m. unless listed otherwise.

November:

14—Goose Creek Memorial (lost 51-48) 17—Little Cypress-Mauriceville (lost 68-60), 21—Orangefield, 23—Hamshire-Fannett, 24—West Brook

December:

1—Lumberton, 4—Kelly, 5—Sabine Pass (2:30 p.m.), 8—Bridge City, 11—Cleveland, 12—Vidor (4 p.m.), 15—Jasper, 19—Sheppard (3 p.m.), 22—Nederland, 28—Kountze (1:30 p.m.), 29—Hardin-Jefferson, 30—Beaumont United

January:

5—Barbers Hill, 8—Galena Park, 12—Port Arthur Memorial, 15—Crosby, 22—Nederland, 26—Beaumont United, 29—Barbers Hill

February:

2—Galena Park, 5—Port Arthur Memorial, 9—Crosby