One step away; Freeman leads Northwest

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, March 10, 2018
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FLYING HIGH – Northwest’s Mason Hix (center) and the Texans won the 5A semifinal Thursday and will play in the final Saturday. Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman

Northwest junior Sammie Freeman picked the perfect time to have one of his best games of the season.

With a trip to the 5A state finals on the line Thursday night, Freeman came up big when it mattered most. On the biggest stage under the bright lights of the Alamodome, Freeman dominated the paint from the opening tip. The 6-foot-9 post finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds, leading the Texans to a 65-54 victory over Alamo Heights in the 5A semifinal.

Northwest will play Port Arthur Memorial at 3 p.m. Saturday for the chance to claim its first state title in school history.

“This is a milestone,” Freeman said. “We didn’t get this far last year. It feels great. I felt like I was a dominant player in this game.”

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FLYING HIGH – Northwest’s Sammie Freeman hangs in the air after making a basket during the Texans’ semifinal win Thursday. Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman

Freeman had a double-double by the end of the third quarter, helping Northwest build a lead Alamo Heights couldn’t overcome. The Texans had 38 points in the paint and shot 51 percent from the floor.

Using his significant height advantage, Freeman shot an efficient 6-of-9 from the field. He also played the most minutes (32) of anyone on the team. When Avery Anderson, Mason Hix and Darrell Simpson got in foul trouble in the first half, Freeman stayed in the game to anchor the interior.

“[Freeman] was big,” Anderson said. “Seventeen rebounds. We need that all day on Saturday.”

Anderson led the Texans in scoring with 16 points, shooting 7-of-15 from the field. Four of Northwest’s starters ended in double-figures. Behind a balanced offensive attack, the Texans began delivering knockout blows that slowly wore down the Mules.

Hix and Julien Smith put Northwest up for good late in the second quarter when the duo hit 3-pointers on three straight trips down the court. Smith finished with 13 while Hix had 14.

Northwest coach Mike Hatch said although Freeman was dominant inside, it took a total team effort for the Texans to advance.

“[Smith] hit a couple of big shots, [Anderson] hit a couple of big shots – it’s the same old story for us,” Hatch said. “We have four or five guys who are going to make big plays even when it gets close and we get in a jam.

“That’s how you get to where we are. You’ve got to have more than one guy. I don’t know, they just have a knack for winning.”

The Texans trailed for just over three minutes in the game, but for most of the first half, Alamo Heights kept Northwest at bay. The Mules see-sawed back and forth with the Texans for the first 16 minutes, taking the lead midway through the second quarter.

After Alamo Heights went up 21-20 with 4:18 left in the half, the Mules never led again. Fueled by Freeman’s rebounding, Northwest turned the tide in the second half, outscoring Alamo Heights 32-21 in the final two quarters.

“We were really frustrated at halftime because we had not played well in the first half,” Hatch said. “All the things we said don’t do, we did. We put them on the free throw line, we turned the ball over, we missed easy shots. They made some runs, they made some shots, but we cut them off when we had to.”

With the victory, Northwest extends its winning streak to 18 games. If the Texans can make it 19 in a row on Saturday, they will be crowned 5A state champions.

“I’m excited, but not that excited because we still have one game to go,” Anderson said.

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