Titans roster additions leading to hot district start

Published 12:10 am Thursday, January 14, 2021

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Memorial boys basketball coach Alden Lewis has yet to have his full roster suit up for a game.

Three players — Maleek Jones, Adrian Hayward and Jah’mar Sanders — joined the team after their football season ended. With Hayward playing for the first time in the Titans’ 64-50 win over Port Neches-Groves, Sanders is the last piece, Lewis said.

Despite getting off to a rough start, the Titans are 3-1 in District 21-5A. Lewis said the recent success is the byproduct of continuity.

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“I knew once I could get all of my guys and get some practices under our belts, I knew, sooner or later, we would get back to where we need to be,” he said. “Throughout all of the adversity, the extended football season and quarantining, it hasn’t been the easiest. The more we play together, the better we will be.”

The next two games for the Titans are crucial for them to establish where they stand in the district with a contest against a sputtering Nederland Friday, followed by a game against No. 2-ranked Beaumont United Tuesday.

The Titans and Bulldogs tipoff at 7 p.m. Friday at the Dog Dome.

Lewis said Hayward, who scored three points in his first game for the Titans, has to shake some rust.

“He’s an athlete,” Lewis said. “He is a guy that can fly around and play defense. He can knock down shots. I don’t think it is going to be too long before he comes around and gets accustomed to what we are trying to do. He was a big part of our program last year and will be this year.”

Sanders could take the court for the Titans within the next week or two, Lewis said.

Yasuel Santiago scored a game-high 18 points Tuesday. The guard played aggressive for the Titans, pushing the tempo in transition and getting to the rim.

“He loves basketball and works hard,” Lewis said of Santiago. “That’s a guy that has been strong for us all season. Despite all that is going on, he has had a good season. I think it will only get better and better for him. He will be ready every game, whether it is on offense or defense. I think he had a good game and hopefully that can continue.”

Lewis is looking forward to the matchup with the Bulldogs.

“To be honest, every game in the district is a big game,” he said. “I think all but one team made the playoffs last year and the team that didn’t was very close. I know that Nederland is a down-the-road rival and that is big, but it isn’t any bigger than any other district game. We try not to make it too big.”

The Memorial coach said Nederland’s Joseph Gipson and Tyler Jackson are the engine for the Bulldogs.

“They have some nice complementary pieces to go with them,” Lewis said. “We are going to have to play a complete game Friday. (Nederland head coach Brian) English is a great coach and he is going to have his team prepared. We are going to have to defend and execute our gameplan.”