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Basketball: Texans make historic run state tourney

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, March 8, 2017
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Coming off a 2016 campaign that included a run to the region quarterfinal before falling to eventual 6A champion DeSoto, a young Northwest Texans team entered this year with many unknowns.

After graduating a pair of all-district performers in Tavian Ezell and Darrell Lipscombe and several other key seniors, Northwest had to rely on several players with little varsity experience.

“Last year’s team was a big underdog and rose to the occasion and were the best team we’ve had. They were so mentally tough,” said Northwest coach Mike Hatch. “This year, we were mostly inexperienced and very young. We didn’t know exactly what we had. We didn’t know if we could grow and be able to all pull rope together.”

It didn’t take long for the young team to grow up and rewrite Texan history. Northwest captured its first district title since 2010, going 13-1 in 6-5A. The Texans followed that with their first regional appearance since 1994. Saturday, Northwest earned the program’s first state trip with a 65-62 win over El Paso Burges in the 5A Region I final.

“It has a lot to do with the kids having faith in us as coaches to get to this point,” Hatch said.

“The state tournament is just a validation of our hard work. We tell our kids that anything is possible. You’ve got to work hard.”

The Texans will play in the 5A semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Thursday against Fort Bend Marshall at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The winner will play in the title game at 3 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s other semifinal between Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial or Mansfield Timberview.

“It’s going to be crazy. We don’t want to get too excited,” said senior point guard Tucker Dunn. “We want to win the whole thing.”

The Texans needed a pair of close wins to earn the state trip. Northwest beat El Paso Andress 62-58 in overtime in the region semifinal behind 20 points from Julien Smith and 14 from Avery Anderson.

In the region final, Northwest trailed nine, 35-26, at halftime. The Texans then went on a 20-7 run in the third quarter to take the lead and held on.

Anderson scored 22 and Dunn 12.

Though a sophomore, Anderson has been one of the Texans’ leaders as one of the few returning starters.

“Since I was on varsity the previous year, I had to push everyone and tell them how it is,” Anderson said.

The tight region tournament games followed a trend for the Texans with strong second halves.

“We work hard in practice every day and when it comes down to clutch situations, we pull it out,” Anderson said.

Hatch added: “We’ve instilled in them to keep working and wear the other team down. We’ve been down double figures, but they’ve kept grinding.”

The Texans just need to grind out two more to etch their name further in Northwest lore and bring home a state title.

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