Basketball: Heartbreak – Northwest falls in 5A title game

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018
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Silver Lining

SILVER LINING – Sammie Freeman holds the 5A runner-up trophy after the Texans’ loss to Port Arthur Saturday. Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman

As precious time ticked off the clock in the 5A state title game, the Northwest Texans frantically looked around the court wondering who should commit the clock-stopping foul.

Port Arthur had a 70-64 lead with under a minute left, and Northwest had to extend the game.

Avery Anderson, Jordan Keys, Julien Smith and Darrell Simpson all had four fouls. Realizing no one was going to foul, Anderson took matters into his own hands. He sacrificed himself, fouling out to give Northwest a chance. But it was for naught.

The Texans came up one win shy of their first state title in school history, falling to Port Arthur 75-69 Saturday at the Alamodome in the UIL basketball championships. Northwest finished the season 34-6 and the 5A runner-up.

End of the Line

END OF THE LINE – Northwest’s Mason Hix (left) consoles teammate Jordan Keys after the Texans’ 75-69 loss in the 5A state championship. Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman

“I thought it was more of us running out of fouls than it was us running out of gas,” said Northwest coach Mike Hatch. “I thought our kids played their tails off.

“Getting into foul trouble caused us some problems. That’s where we lost some of our aggressiveness because we had some of our better offensive players sitting on the bench.”

Anderson and Keys picked up their fourth fouls midway through the third quarter, relegating them to the bench. The Texans committed 28 fouls in the game.

With his teammates in foul trouble, senior Mason Hix did his best to shoulder the load offensively. In his final high school game, the UT-Arlington signee scored a game-high 27 points, shooting 9-for-16 from the field. He knocked down four 3-pointers.

Out with a Bang

OUT WITH A BANG – Northwest senior Mason Hix shoots in the 5A championship against Port Arthur. Hix finished with a game-high 27 points in the loss. Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman

“[Hix] hit about every shot he took, it seemed like,” Hatch said. “He was carrying us for sure. He hit some big shots. I thought at both ends he rebounded well. I thought he played a heck of a game.”

Hix kept the Titans at bay in the third quarter, driving to the rim and hitting outside shots. Hix served as Northwest’s primary offensive threat with Anderson and others in foul trouble.

“[Foul trouble] was frustrating, but I just kept telling everyone to play hard, it’s not over,” Hix said. “Do what we do and fight back.”

Northwest led 50-45 going into the final frame. That’s when Port Arthur’s Darion Chatman took the game over.

As Northwest did its best not to foul, Chatman started attacking. The 5A finals MVP finished with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, helping the Titans outscore the Texans 30-19 in the fourth quarter.

“In the fourth quarter we couldn’t stop [Chatman],” Hatch said. “We zoned him. We manned him. We tried to double him. He just wasn’t laying down. He kept hunkering down and coming at us. I thought he turned the game around himself. Obviously the foul trouble was a huge problem for us.”

The loss snapped the Texans’ 18-game winning streak dating back to December.

Northwest will graduate starters Hix and Keys along with sixth man Simpson. Anderson, Smith and 6-foot-9 sophomore Sammie Freeman will return next season.

“For sure [this loss is tougher than last year’s],” Anderson said. ” I just think we didn’t finish the game well. [Chatman] kept coming and it took our aggressiveness away with the foul situation.”

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