Basketball: Northwest eyes San Antonio – Texans set sights on return to state tournament

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, February 7, 2018
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The buzz was palpable around Northwest High School.

The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) preseason poll had just been released, and the Texans checked in as the No. 1 5A team in the state. According to coach Mike Hatch, it seemed like everyone was talking about the ranking and the upcoming season – except his team.

ON A ROLL – Avery Anderson goes up for a layup. Anderson is Northwest’s leading scorer and has helped the Texans win nine straight games. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I never hear anybody say nothing about it,” Hatch said. “Since [the preseason rankings were released], we lost a couple games, and I’ve never heard anything more about it. I don’t ever hear our guys say anything about it.”

Although the Texans have lost a few games this year – five, to be exact – Northwest is still ranked second in 5A.

One of their losses came in the regular season opener against Denton Guyer, the top team in 6A. Another came against Mansfield Timberview, a four-point loss to the reigning 5A champions. Northwest then fell to Waxahachie, the current No. 1 team in 5A and San Antonio Wagner, the eighth-ranked team in 6A, in the Whataburger Tournament.

“We had to play a pretty hard predistrict schedule to get us where we think we’re going to be later in the season,” said senior Mason Hix. “Playing a tough schedule is getting us ready for that and what we hope to do.”

Since their two-point loss to Wagner at the end of December, Northwest is unbeaten. The Texans have rattled off nine straight wins and are undefeated in 6-5A. Northwest needs just one win in its final three games to wrap up the District 6-5A title.

But the Texans are not content with settling for district championships. For some, it’s state title or bust.

“Yeah, it’ll feel like a failure [if we don’t win the state championship] because we’ve put so much work in to get back to San Antonio this year,” said junior Avery Anderson. “If we do get there, we’re going to hopefully come out with the state championship.”

Hatch said he would not consider coming up short of that goal as a failure, if the team reaches its potential.

“It will just depend on the game if we’re to get beat,” Hatch said. “There’s some good teams in this region that are certainly capable of beating us. What I don’t want to have happen is come out and not respect our opponent, take somebody for granted and they come out and upset us. Then we will have a terrible feeling about what we’ve done this year – and we’ve had a heck of a year.”

At 25-5, the Texans are on track to match or post a better record than last year, where they went 33-6. Northwest made a run to the state semifinals last March before falling to Fort Bend Marshall.

The Texans returned several players from that team – including Anderson – and added Hix, a 6-foot-8 post, and 6-foot-9 junior Sammie Freeman. Together, Hix and Freeman have bolstered the Texans’ offense.

Hix is Northwest’s second-leading scorer, averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Freeman, meanwhile, is nearly averaging a double-double at 9.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Northwest’s offense is averaging 70.3 points per night – a five-point increase from last year.

“I wasn’t here last year, but they really wanted to win last year and failed. So me and Sammie coming in, we’re just here to help,” Hix said. “I think we’re good enough to definitely get back and win it this year.”

Anderson remains the motor behind the Texans’ high-powered offense. Anderson is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17.8 points. He’s also dishing out 5.3 assists per game.

Anderson has also matured as a defender in his junior year, averaging 2.5 steals per game. With so much length, especially on the perimeter, Northwest has held opponents to just 34.8 percent shooting on the season.

“He was great the other night,” said Hatch of Anderson’s performance against Aledo. “One thing about Avery is he’s extremely competitive, and he knows what it’s going to take for us to get to where we want to go. He knows we have to have everybody, and a lot of getting everybody involved comes down to him getting them involved.”

Northwest has two regular season games left after Tuesday before the playoffs start. The Texans will likely have a rematch with Sherman in the bi-district round to begin their trek back to San Antonio.

While the goal has always been to cut down the nets and bring home the hardware, Hatch knows at any given moment, especially in the playoffs, anything can happen.

He just thinks his team will be a particularly tough out.

“We’re not afraid of nobody, I’ll say that,” Hatch said. “It’s not to say we can’t get beat by anybody, we just aren’t afraid of nobody. We just have to be tuned in and play like we’re capable of playing. I think it will be hard to beat us.”

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